Studio Visit: Emily Stollery

Emily Stollery is an artist living and working in West Yorkshire, England.  Her work can be seen in PLEAT's August 2018 exhibition as well as  Photo credit: Mike Kane, School of Art & Design at NTU

Please describe your work. 
My most recent works bring together two very different strains of making; steam bent wood and ceramic forms. I choose to shift, and reappropriate the natural associations we have with these materials; seemingly hard transformed to a fluid form. Softness frozen solidly in a fixed state- in a way that somewhat goes against the ‘rules’ of my chosen medium. Breaking them out of the confines of what we know they are capable of, and perhaps suggesting an alternative. 

Traces of a working process are integrated into the ‘finished’ object, though nothing is ever final, with the work having scope to change continuously. Iteration after iteration, not once existing in the same configuration. Their temporality means I as a maker cannot fully exhaust their potential. Each resolved work becomes a snapshot, a momentary pause- much as the movement in the material has been frozen in this way. A freshness stemming from a spontaneous approach to staging works, suggests that these objects have just appeared in the space, just been performed with, just waiting. An interaction is aired, but cannot be seen by an audience. In an almost intrinsic way. And whilst these objects allude to many things, they are at the same time non-representational. No one set answer, nor reading. Disparate materials unified through their manipulation.

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices? 
Since my Foundation Course I’ve had an interest in solidifying movement in a material. Throughout my studies at University this grew, and shifted between different materials- exploring their potentials. So, this idea is often where my intentions for making will begin, and circle back to. Leading me to work with materials such as plaster, ceramics, wood, silicone, foam and concrete. 

Materials meet instinct to create forms born out of spontaneity; in the moment to and fro of maker and material. How it feels, functions, breaks. All through the touch of my hand. My body perhaps becoming the most significant tool in this process.

Surfaces not quite right, imperfections showcased. These forms, in their purity, reference the struggle of the processes they were born from. A not so perfect form, formed perfectly. Allowing chance and indeterminacy to exist as a parameter for making.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them? 
I’ve been a fan of Lynda Benglis’ work and practice for years now. For me she embodies a playful nature of this idea of solidifying movement. Her work is considered, but also instinctive, and that is a combination of attitudes I see in my own approach to making.

I came across Dave Hardy’s work last summer whilst trawling through Instagram, and immediately picked up on similar techniques in our practices. In a way our making is very similar, using foam as a construct for form. I use ceramics, whereas Hardy uses concrete. But I love the tension his work creates, by pairing these seemingly soft (but heavy) forms, with materials such as glass in an installation. There’s a subtle intensity in the staging, that I find really exciting, and I hope I get to see his work in person one day.  

My research this year has also lead me to look at artists such as Barry Le Va, who I am greatly intrigued by his theory and thinking towards staging works. Rachel Whiteread, who I’ve admired for a long time for her use and manipulation of such varying materials as well as the casting process. And Susan Collis, who’s practice I appreciate for its crossover between contemporary art and craft. 

But it’s not just contemporary Artists I appreciate in relation to my own work. I enjoy looking at contemporary furniture designers such as Joseph Walsh, as we use similar processes in making. Woodworking and wood turning videos on youtube are also a great source of inspiration in my work, as I love to learn new skills to push my work in new directions.  

How has social media affected your studio practice? 
I often use sites such as Instagram as not only a research tool, but as a way of getting my work out there- in what feels like a less formal, but still public way. Instagram is also something I like to use as a sort of sketchbook; to document the day to day things going on in my studio. Having those images to revisit helps me to keep on top of my ideas whilst at the same time, test new things and be experimental.

I’ve found a lot of influences through Instagram, whether that be coming across new artists, forms, or imagery to work from. Often my work is somewhat dependent on the behaviour of the material I’m working with, but I can often gain ideas for staging and aesthetics, from researching elsewhere. There seem to be more and more opportunities advertised through social media more recently too, so it’s actually a great way to get involved with external projects, and meet new artists.