EMMA HISLOP is a practising artist who is based in Glasgow. She is a multimedia artist who will be attending Glasgow school of art's sculpture and environmental art department, notably having heralded many Turner prize winners and nominees. Much of her work is drawn from her own experiences, it is conceptual in it's nature and so retains a certain ability to reach a wider audience. In some of her most recent work, she has become interested in the historical context of the renowned Tramway building, following an intriguing and thought-provoking archival narrative which takes the viewer into the building's past. This discussion will aim to discover more about her creative process.
I usually find when approaching my work that I should follow my gut, my first instinct is something I always seem to pass by; searching for something deeper which 9 times out of 10 will be a sort of process of elimination. My first instinct will be what I come back to and after working through all other options it becomes a far more enjoyable process. 'Paradise' comes across as a heavenly angelic word with the attachment of biblical virgins waiting to reward men taking a book of morality to extremes. I have tried to approach it as my own personal heaven, if I'm honest I think of the film Happy Gilmore and when he can't make a shot he goes to his 'Happy place'. I like the fun of my own happy place I can go when things get too much, it appeals to my quite childish playful sense of humour. I began by looking at my partner he is everything that brings me joy, and my ridiculous love of puddles and how he has scuffed his car alloys from driving through every single one when I am in the car as I love the sound and the excitement that with the window down I might get soaked, there are many things that have been included in my happy place but these ring most true. So I want to encapsulate them keeping them as a memory you might find in another childhood favourite film, The Never Ending Story, where the young boy's joyous memories are stolen. If this perfect paradise is to be stored efficiently by today's health and safety standards it must have the addition of preservatives and chemicals and how do these affect the memory, is it distorted, changed or tainted? This process of thought is what I hope to investigate.
You seem to be taking a very personal approach to the topic, while still creating a general idea of how the people at the exhibition will consider the work. Could you go into more detail in regards to what you hope the viewer will take from your work in the exhibition?
As I am still in the early stages of my work's production I am unsure of the path it will take, it may completely change its meaning from now or retain that as a starting point, an essence just like that of a fading memory. I am looking at preservation as quite a central theme. I am inspired by how Cornelia Parker uses what seems as an object or piece in itself as a media I hope to push myself out of what I have preconceived of myself and what I intend to make to create something new that I may feel is unlike me, perhaps even a sense of detachment. I don't know yet as an artist if I feel the viewer is a necessary component in my work. I think it depends upon what I want to say. I wouldn't say a viewer makes a work successful, I am not dependent on their impression but obviously I want to inflict some sort of emotion. I suppose in the simplest of ways I hope to impart a sense on my viewer, a sensory experience without the use of their senses.
Are you most often drawn to artists who have a personal approach? Are there any who have influenced you most notably throughout your time at vas?
Not at all, I am interested in any form of artist. As a viewer it is diluted down to like or dislike. The controversial addition of descriptors alongside a piece can completely change how a viewer feels about it, if you did not know the story, or indeed lack of one, your senses alone would guide you. VAS opened me up to a whole breadth of artists and how I discover and research them. I would struggle to pick any who I hold above others but just in a way I have found the notable, Louise Bourgeois - a strong inspiration, she inflicts a deep emotion in me, the way which she worked is almost regimental, if I could be even half as motivated, productive and dedicated to my work as Bourgeois I would be satisfied. But then the beauty of her work lies in that she remained unsatisfied! The dilemma of art continues! I find women strong figures for me as influences, I continue to keep in mind that I am a woman making art and what that means, especially when creating large scale works and ones fuelled by emotion. This also inclines me to look at someone like Franz Kline, someone who was around when men held the art world in their palm, a very industrial maker which I liken myself to in how I produce work. I find that very intriguing and am excited to continue exploring it.
It is notable to me that you have spoken about the artist being unsatisfied and the output of work being important. How do you continue to be motivated in creating your work? Has working in the context of tramway affected this in any way?
Tramway was something I had been looking for as long as I can remember, just without knowing what it was. After searching for something for such an extended period, I started it running, I am filled with work that longs to be created a lot of the time you find an anti-climax after completing a piece. It is generally something I am compelled to create and the motivation is the momentum I pick up as the process goes along. This compulsion, which can infest me, is a release when a work is completed, my mind can be free of thoughts, it is clean and tidy. Only to find that a day or so after, sometimes before I even finish a work, another obsession has begun. I would say that it is accurate to say I am obsessed with my work. I am completely infatuated by it, why I don't like it, why I do it, why I NEED to do it. I am never satisfied with an answer, I want to why, why the question, how the question, what the question. It is a never ending process.
How does the feedback of your peers change this process? Do you feel that receiving feedback from individuals you don't necessarily know during the upcoming exhibition will differ from this in any way?
I'm not sure that I will receive feedback from the viewer during this exhibition unless it is through social media or a passing on of conversations. Although I will be present at the opening I don't intend to hover at my work, I actually hope to avoid it, so as not to interfere. Viewing artwork should be a natural fluid experience without disruption or interference of the artist standing by ready to defend their work and pep it up, selling it in a way to passersby. Obviously positive feedback would be great but I am a great believer in debate so much so that I tend to near arguments when entering a deep discussion with my peers. I think it is so important to have an opinion. Our generation is so disappointing to me with its lack of interest in opinions and even more so in poorly formed ones just to have an opinion for the purpose of saying you do. Falseness is a poor trait and should be avoided at all costs. I find so much pleasure in debate and learning through this process, being proven wrong and having the humility to hold your hands up, accept it and then learn more about it, and therefore teaching others through this means also. I spend a great deal of time making notes, it has sort of become my process of making work, making notes, researching, making more notes and meeting up with peers to discuss my findings and thoughts to receive feedback, debate about it together and return to form new notes based on this feedback. It is a truly enjoyable process and a part of life that I am extremely fond of.
Where do you think this exhibition could take you? Will it inspire more work in the same vein?
I don't expect to gain anything from the exhibition in an immediate and material sense. I hope that I gain experience in not only working with a group of my peers independently out with any institution but being completely self-directed. The motivation to get up and make work with no 'need' to would have daunted me previously but I have adopted more of a carefree attitude where it is of no matter what the outcome of the exhibition may be but that I was consciously a part of it. I do hope if I gain anything, to achieve more confidence in myself and my projects. Perhaps this will inspire more work as I go on making for Paradise, possibly picking up inspiration for a new body of work, but for now I hope to relish the show for what it is. It is ours.
Learn more about Emma Hislop by following the link to her page and visiting her social media outlets. You can also continue to keep up to date with the exhibition by following our instagram @paradise_exhibition and the blog
Article by Freya Wilson