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Episode 69
Artist Emma Webster

  • 26 min read

Episode Description

A conversation with artist Emma Webster. Webster uses virtual reality, collage and 3D modeling software to create invented landscapes that she then paints in oil. These unique, large-scale landscapes provoke wonder and spark curiosity. In August, Webster’s work was the subject of the inaugural show at Perrotin’s newest exhibit space in Seoul, South Korea.


Craig: [00:00:09] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. On today's episode, I speak with artist Emma Webster. Webster uses virtual reality collage and 3D modeling software to create invented landscapes that she then paints in oil. These unique large scale landscapes provoke wonder and spark curiosity. In August, Webster's work was the subject of the inaugural show at Sheraton's newest exhibit space in Seoul, South Korea. And now a discussion about the contemporary landscape with artist Emma Webster.

Craig: [00:00:58] But you know what? We were all teenagers once in a.

Emma: [00:01:02] I wasn't really. I feel like I was locked away for most of my teenage years. I wish I had had a much more, I don't know, party.

Craig: [00:01:11] What were you doing during your teenage years?

Emma: [00:01:14] Oh, just studying. I mean, my parents are hardcore academics.

Craig: [00:01:18] Yeah, And so is that. Is that how you wound up at Stanford?

Emma: [00:01:23] Yeah. Wait, are we. Are we starting?

Craig: [00:01:25] You know, it just happened.

Emma: [00:01:26] Oh, okay. I don't know.

Craig: [00:01:28] Yeah, well, you know, I mean, usually I start the conversations with just having an artist kind of have their opportunity to explain who they are as an artist, which I typically frame as the the dinner party hypothetical. You know, you are seated next to a stranger who has no idea who Emma Webster is or what you do. And they say, "So you paint paintings of like places or", you know, and then it's up to you to try to explain to them without...and hopefully they're under 60, right?

Emma: [00:02:06] Yeah. I mean, I don't know. I tend to go with the simple answer. I feel like saying I paint landscapes. It might be a little bit cheeky, but it really exposes their preconceived notions around what landscapes are. I mean, most of the time people just kind of roll their eyes and think that I'm a grandma Sunday painter doing plein air fields, but really I mean landscape's about space. And there''s a massive genre. And so if someone knows more about landscape or is interested in space, then I'll mention models and dioramas, how I work from virtual reality.

Craig: [00:02:45] So you're a landscape painter, but you haven't always been a landscape painter. We were starting about your home life growing up and the the emphasis on academics like, well, tell me about your teenage years. What did you always...well I mean, if you're that hardcore academic, I imagine, was art always the first goal?

Emma: [00:03:10] No, definitely not. There was some friction when I became more interested in painting. But yeah, I grew up in Southern California, in San Diego, and my mom is kind of a legal mind and my dad is a scientist, and so most of my teenage years I felt like were spent around test prep and AP courses. And maybe that's the reason why I began to see art as this big escape. It was something that I wasn't really meant to do or that it wasn't ever a real job. And it also just became this thing that was mine, you know, It was my little corner, my turf. So I just kept, you know, I went to Stanford and at first I was an international relations major and tried to do everything right. And then somewhere along the way, I just said, "Who am I living for? You know, I know I want to do painting. I've been doing painting this whole time in the background". And I changed majors and from then on was pretty set, pretty focused.

Craig: [00:04:23] So at what point in your journey did you realize that you were being drawn to landscape painting? Because I mean, that's...I mean, even when we go back to the conundrum of you, of your answering the question about who you are as an artist, there can be that misconception of the grandma plein air painter. But what you do is so much more than that. At what point did you start gravitating to a field that isn't top of mind in contemporary circles?

Emma: [00:04:58] And it should be. I think that that's part of the problem, is that we we all think we know what landscape is when landscape is changing constantly. But I would say I didn't come to landscape painting through a love of nature or wanting to paint trees or greenery. I mean, honestly, that's not really what I even thought of when I thought of landscape growing up in the chaparral of Southern California. I was always confused by impressionist paintings of picnics and rivers and whatever. So really it was...I spent most of my 20s just developing my chops and kind of painting whatever interested me and not fixating on any one thing. And then in graduate school, you know, when you're so beaten down, I kind of came back to the fundamentals of still life, right? And it was in this really rudimentary mindset that I began to realize that the way we construct space and diorama. Oz is not at all dissimilar to the way that we construct space in the real world. And furthermore, how painting is inherently linked to these conversations around space. It's about creating an image that isn't just flat, or at least that was the conversation before modernism and the art object. It was like painting was image. Painting was this kind of deception. So really, I kind of feel like still life (the diorama) brought in this interest in landscape, and then from there it's just sort of snowballed. I started with little maquettes and clay figurines, papier maché, and recently have now started to build these dioramas in the computer. And so it's a flexible practice that I feel has a lot of different avenues. I don't want to just do VR for the rest of my life. But it's it's an interesting time.

Craig: [00:07:04] Yeah. And it's you know, that was one of the things when I started kind of digging in to your work to have this conversation. I mean, one of the things that struck me is and a lot of ways there's a huge part of your practice that sculptural, right? I mean, it is thinking in terms of three dimensions and how a three dimensional form relates to the space around it and how light and shadows are a part of filling that space. It just so happens that the output currently are these paintings.

Emma: [00:07:41] Exactly. Yeah. I feel like it's a little bit like Shadow Theater, where backstage there's 27 people and a mop and a goat, and the audience just sees the silhouette of like a dragon or something. And so I love that it's two different things. And that for the most part, I wasn't sharing my sculptures or my VR creations, but I kind of feel like they give a little bit of magic. There's still...they're their own things. But again, this is like the same conversation we're having with technology where we're fabricating space and the screen and there's, you know, behind this stage, there's 27 people running around in the pixels. And we we just assume that all of these screens around us are these magical mirrors, but they're actually...there's so much parsing there that we especially me, which I mean, I'm kind of actually a Luddite that doesn't understand. Yeah. I think that that element of like vision is revealing isn't actually where we're at. I think that there's a lot of concealing happening like a doorknob has this term phantasmagoric. 

Craig: [00:09:03] Right. 

[00:09:04] Where it's...yeah, any process under capitalism that conceals or mystifies how it's produced or how it operates. And you know, people talk about VR as like I can see a new place, I can be on top of Mount Everest, but you're also concealing the present, you're concealing the circumstance. So it's this...yeah, I like the duality of like having the sculpture and having the image, because that's simultaneously what a lot of conversations around image making in today's age are.

Craig: [00:09:37] Ahead of our conversation. You sent me this lovely catalog.

Emma: [00:09:44] Yeah, it's a makeshift zine, really?

Craig: [00:09:47] Well, you know, and it's really interesting and it's, you know, you can tell it's put together by an artist because every time I think that I'm like, on to an answer, I'm just left with more questions and, you know, related to what you're just talking about with the phantasmagoric, there's you've inserted an annotated page from a book you were reading where you start talking about spectacle and the spectacular and separating vision from touch. Can can you give me a little bit of what brushfire was being, you know, kind of flamed there when as you were reading that text?

Emma: [00:10:28] Well, more and more, I'm interested in this overlap between like gaming or video worlds and painting. And I mean, gaming is all based on this. They call it the peripersonal space, where it's like you can affect everything within arm's distance, but space is like a larger distant thing you can't touch. And to me, that term, peripersonal space is exactly the same thing that painting operates. People always talk about scale of the the viewer to the. The imagery that's happening and like that is how spectacle is often created, is that we need to feel as if we can believe this artificial thing. And, you know, they're both playing with like different methods of deceiving the senses, whether it's like, you know, gaming controllers, haptic feedback and touch and sound. But painting only has optics. So it's like you have to really refine these devices of deceit to make them convincing. And I really like to think about, you know, you can't have an avatar of your body in a painting because you are there. You're you are viewing this thing that you are also occupying. And so, yeah, a lot of the paintings that I've been making recently are actually these kind of empty spaces because I want them to feel like there's not its its first player point of view. You know, there's not necessarily another animal that's going to tell you what to do or person to interact with. It's like you have to explore and figure out the terrain of this unfamiliar place.

Craig: [00:12:18] And I think that's that's one of the things, you know, I was trying to figure out, why do I find your work so compelling? Right. And, you know, I think on one hand, it has to do with with color. It has to do with a number of things. One of the things I sensed was there's almost like this juxtaposition of irregular, almost abstract forms, right? But in the middle of it all is this perfectly consistent use of light that creates space and form. So it's like there's that juxtaposition of the forms are abstract, but you've created a world where there is this hyper-consistent use of light. Does that...?

Emma: [00:13:04] Yeah, totally. I mean, yeah, that's absolutely it. I found that, you know, light within these kind of like tanks, these sort of almost like natural history barriers, it's light that actually makes us figure out what's in front and what's behind us. But I think that we sort of desire like a kind of simulation of totality. We like to see everything and it's right place. We want a sort of world in which everything makes total sense and we understand the rules. And yeah, I think that that drive of like being all knowing or all understanding is really I mean, not only is it sort of a tenet of a lot of like religious things as a, as a mode of explaining everything, it's also the sense of like, well, what if you could totally grasp these worlds? What if they were, you know, real places that you could populate what could happen in these fantastical places and. I mean, the panorama, the 360 image. It exceeds the viewer's capacity to take it all. And at once, you know, when you experience a panorama, you're always only experiencing part of it. And I think that's so fascinating. It's almost like the image has more power or more it surpasses the spectator on all of these levels. And so, yeah, I guess this is also what I'm thinking is like, what are the depths that maybe we're not totally aware of in these in these works?

Craig: [00:14:53] So do you spend any time thinking about the metaverse and how your work might be able to live in a metaverse by whatever definition people attribute that term?

Emma: [00:15:06] Maybe. But then there's also this question of like interactivity and giving the viewer agency. And I mean, I've always kind of bristle at the idea of like beauty is in the eye of the beholder and every subjective experience is correct. I'm like, No, fuck that. It's not. So I don't know. I think that painting is interactive in a theoretical context. It shouldn't actually be like physically interactive. And so the stasis of painting is important to me. I mean, it's important to have that conversation with this lineage of how we've developed images, how, you know, we create depths of field just through strategies, whether it's, you know, atmospheric pressure, scale shifts or whatever.

Craig: [00:16:01] So, you know, painting space and painting with depth, even that is kind of contrary to where a lot of contemporary work has gone in the last 20-30 years. Right? I mean, there is there's the whole flat esthetic. And have you had to do any swimming upstream just with the fact that your work does utilize space?

Emma: [00:16:28] For sure. I mean, it's so fascinating to me that this modern phenomena that, you know, a painting, painting or an artwork is a reflection of the maker and that it's all about this sort of emotional space or eliciting a feeling in the viewer. To me, I'm like, well, painting was also first and foremost about observing things and sort of scientifically recreating things. And so in a lot of ways I feel like I'm leapfrogging back to a much older conversation and really trying to like talk about image instead of emotion. And it's also, you know, there are no people in it. I'm not I know that these spaces are from my brain, but they're also super ambiguous. They're collages. They don't look like, you know, the eucalyptus trees of San Diego. They don't look like my grandparents house in Sussex. And, you know, the wet landscape of England, they look like these sort of they look almost sci fi because they're hybrid, because they're collages of so many different things. And I think that really it's again, this like globe texture, I think of them as kind of this these snow globes where they come over and around you about you that that fascination with like containing an environment seems to be important because if you don't contain nature, then it's just wilderness, then it's just wild. But the contained, whether it's examples like secret gardens or the papal gardens in Italy to control nature was to like have power. It was to have your little domain and your little pocket and that very much is kind of like what these paintings are, is they're simultaneously a pocket for me. But I also hope that each person gets to kind of go in them one by one and experience it as like, This is your little fortress, this is your white picket fence. Strange place. You might not have picked it, but you're there now and you're by yourself, right with it.

Craig: [00:18:48] Yeah. And you know some of the paintings, it feels like the light source is very natural. And then there are others where it feels like the light source is almost supernatural, right? Like the light is emanating from something that's just around the corner or just in the canopy of the trees or what we choose to even say there trees. Am I right? And so, you know, I guess that is also something that kind of piques our interest and invites us into these spaces is, you know, it's not necessarily sublime, but maybe, maybe a sense of wonder or curiosity.

Emma: [00:19:29] Totally. It's definitely all of these things. It's, you know, we're moths to the flame where we see a light and we I think we associate light with action, like something must be happening there. And that's also why, you know, in a lot of painting, it's like light is almost a character. It's it's revelation. It's it's something that's just happening or about to happen. And I like using light as a...tucking light behind various things, having backlighting in the paintings, because it makes one a bit curious, but it also implies as a time in an interesting way, like "is this a burst of light that's going to go away?" Because light typically in the real world is constantly shifting. It's only within these tech devices that we visit the same thing over and over and that the light isn't dictated by the sun and that's why in a weird way, visiting these places, it almost brings me to déja vu. Like, we are so unaccustomed to repetition in our day to day life that, you know, when you have an episode of déja vu, there's this feeling of unease. You know, you have a moment of suspense where you can self witness or yourself spectatorship. And that is doesn't that's the opposite in VR. You know, VR is vampire. It's always the same. And you're perpetually in this state of deja vu, which is is a fascinating polar opposite to a world that is so in flux and landscapes, local parks that are changing every time you visit them, green spaces that are disappearing.

Craig: [00:21:28] Going back to your zine, there is another page that like really piqued my interest. But then things were obscured and you know, and it was it was a page about, you know, it starts off talking about stereotypes of landscape painting, and then it starts kind of headed, heading towards what seemed to be maybe some of the emotions you have around creating work that is tied to landscape. But I'm not sure I'm getting all the answers because there are Post-its and things that are cropped. A) Do you have an agenda? And B) if so, what is it? Because I feel like some, you know, on that page it was talking about how some people they have an agenda for doing landscape painting whether that's maybe Frederic Church was wanting to highlight the wonders of the sublime and, you know, encourage the growth of national parks or whatever. What is it for you?

Emma: [00:22:31] Yeah, that's a great question. I think that it has a lot to do with ownership that by having these landscapes that are not real, not populated, they sort of require an interaction with the spectator. And to me, I always feel like my paintings are looking right back at the person saying, Now what? Or like, what do you think of this? Because the politics of how we only think of landscape as it relates to us, we only think of like the rose beds that we want or the parking lot that could go somewhere. That that is the crux of this. And somehow, you know, paintings that present a scene but like don't give much away in terms of narrative. You know there's this is also why I moved away from incorporating animals and other things because I felt like people were they were more comfortable reading the symbols as a kind of narrative of, you know, fox means wiley or I don't know, a dove means peace. And instead it's the viewer is really on display. You know, we kind of look at it and we're like, Why do I feel like that eerie green light is kind of upsetting? Why do I feel like I want to be here and I don't want to be there? And how does that then affect how I go out in the world and and manipulate things around me? You know, fortunately, being the master of one's own universe when it comes to gaming and the screen, it's fine because you don't affect anyone else. But that's not how we're treating our environment in the space around us. We, you know, we are not aware of this larger system that is much, much more complicated than than we think.

Craig: [00:24:29] I think I have a dozen questions around your process. So how do you where do you start in terms of...I know that you start with an idea and then there's a drawing and then a collage. Where where do these ideas come from? Is it just you vamping off of what you just finished, or are you taking motivation from inputs that are coming in from other places?

Emma: [00:24:59] It's really fluid. I mean, sometimes there's just a strange image or kind of meditation that is the little grain of sand that gets turned into a pearl. Like, you know, I've been marinating on the idea of a cave. I'm like, What really is a cave? Where does a cave begin and end and Plato's cave and write all of these ideas and then kind of begin to look at landscape painting with caves in it, Think about, you know. Metaphorical caves and then gradually by by kind of working and reworking or come up with a formal sketch. And really that's like the biggest leap is trying to take these kind of abstract ideas, sometimes poems, and then really thinking about them as a puzzle piece, like how is this diagonal going to fit with this shape and, and using form as a way of sort of populating the picture frame. And then from there, once I've got a kind of roadmap that's either a drawing or a watercolor or collage, then there's this whole other element of bringing the Z axis of sculpture into it. And you know, you have a 2D thing and you think you know it. And I swear, like once you start sculpting things and realize that you can have a tree branch that's coming right at you that you wouldn't have seen in just the 2D, those moments of surprise come into play. Then in the later stages of lighting and and sort of atmosphere.

Craig: [00:26:42] Really you brought up a question I didn't anticipate, which is does your compositional sketch always wind up matching what you wind up with in the end? Because in my mind, if you start creating a 3D space that you...once you're in a 3D space, I know that you're creating it and then you take it into Blender and you have the lighting, there's always the question of where is the camera, right? Where is the camera in your 3D space in that camp, you can move that camera around because you've now created a diorama a world. And so is it possible that you you think you're starting with one composition, But by the nature of creating this 3D world, you wind up with a totally different composition in the end? Or do they do they seem to kind of follow suit because you had that germ of an idea and you want to see it through.

Emma: [00:27:39] All the time? It changes all the time. I mean, in a weird way, the way that I'm working is linked to kind of plein air painting because I'm digitally crawling around these spaces and trying to find camera angles. I mean, this this way of working, I love it because I can be a novice at so many different things. You know, I feel like I'm becoming a little bit of a filmmaker and a sculptor and like a programmer and a gamer and all these things when really I'm just like a painter painter. But yeah, the idea that you don't always know what's going to happen, it's. I mean, but then again, this is also like painting from still life. You put the flowers in the glass and then they start to wilt. And you have to deal with that as as it happens. But yes, sometimes the sketches, it's nice when the sculptures and the sort of final renders look very much like the sketches. But oftentimes there's a frustration and you realize that the horizon needs to be higher or I need to be looking down from a tree, because that's the other thing is you can have these out of body perspectives that you can't have in normal landscape painting. And I'm very interested in bringing perspectives, whether it's like, I don't know, aerial drone perspectives or like macro views of distant horizons into the mix, because why not? It's a fake world. We can have like no body there.

Craig: [00:29:13] Well, yeah, I mean, when I when I talk to people about photography, you know, the first thing I'd tell them is you've got to you've got to change your point of view. You have to look at things from a different angle.

Emma: [00:29:26] And we have more and more devices. Like, it's fascinating to me that we're sort of used to like surveillance footage now that we can we've sort of adopted all of these ways of seeing spatially, but also through deep time, like we can now sort of anticipate what might happen or what did happen. These are all things that we are not or have not been physically capable of doing in the past. And I think that they should be co-opted for painting.

Craig: [00:29:59] Sure. Well, I had a guest on Anne Spalter and she was just as excited about the prospects of AI and was, you know, using AI as an input for paintings. And because it's you know, it's almost like people are dismissive of AI as as a legitimate field of art. But if you use that as the basis for something that is deemed legitimized, you know, it kind of opens up a world, right?

Emma: [00:30:35] It's just a tool. I mean, I hate that. Like Deleuze has this quote. "Machines are social before they're technical". I'm like, Let's not dismiss an entire thing just because we think that we think that painting is somehow just about the hand and isn't about like the human body is also a computer and a system that can be hacked. Painting with the computer is possible that it doesn't need to just exist in this world of, you know, struggling with the hands.

Craig: [00:31:08] Sure. Well, you know, every every five or six weeks, I'll get somebody commenting on Instagram saying, "why are we still talking about painting? Why are you still talking to painters?" Well, how how would you respond to that?

Emma: [00:31:25] I think that painting I say it all the time, but like painting is the first virtual technology. Painting is the first. We forget it. But panoramas painted murals that this is all about simulation. And if we're going to have conversations around artifice, it needs to be in the language of painting - cut and dry.

Craig: [00:31:51] So you recently had an exhibit with Perriton in Seoul, South Korea. Did you get to go over to Seoul to to open up that show?

Emma: [00:32:03] I did, yeah. It was incredible. It was...

Craig: [00:32:06] Tell me about Seoul, because I hear that it's just a real burgeoning hub for the art world.

Emma: [00:32:13] It totally is. And I was kind of surprised at how American friendly it is now, everyone, there's this sort of recognition of American culture in particular, but in general, with Samsung and Sharp, there's just incredible technology window displays with holograms, folding screens. I found everyone in Seoul to be extremely friendly, warm, helpful. I mean, I just had the most incredible time in reception and I don't think I've ever been treated so kindly as I was in Seoul. It really made a big impression on me.

Craig: [00:32:55] And so did. Did they love your work?

Emma: [00:32:59] Well, at least they said that to my face. Yeah. No, I think it went well. You know, it was a huge compliment to be the inaugural show at their second space in Seoul. And I think there was definitely a sense of who is this young painter. But it was incredible to see people's reactions because the images have been so small on everyone's phones for so long that I think when people. Saw all the glazing and the thick paint and the, you know, I'm using oil ground and all of these different sort of luminous pigment techniques that when people saw that in person, I think it really ignited a whole a whole level of kind of support that maybe and it's I've had an incredible response to it. I still can't believe it. I kind of feel like it's this Cinderella story of, you know, how much people have loved the show. It's going to be a tough one to follow up with.

Craig: [00:34:02] Well, have you started?

Emma: [00:34:05] I'm trying. Yeah, I guess. Yeah. I'm going to do another show with Perrotin at their Tokyo space. And it's pretty humbling to, like, come from a wonderful show or a show that was well-received to suddenly being back in the studio and, like, starting from scratch.

Craig: [00:34:23] Well, you know, you can always put some color of ground on those canvases, and then it's it's not nearly as intimidating as just the stark white. Right?

Emma: [00:34:34] Totally. And this is also the beauty of working with the computer is I can just do render after render draft after draft. You know, it's I can I can really kind of lean on the sketch in a lot of ways.

Craig: [00:34:47] So, you know, you mentioned there that through the pandemic and and everything, I guess people have been seeing your work on a two and a half by four inch screen. How important do you feel scale is to getting that immersive experience for consuming your art?

Emma: [00:35:07] It's crucial. I mean, like what I was saying with the peripersonal space, you need to feel like it can exist within an entire visual plane. And the confusion that I think works in in my paintings is because the trees that you're interacting with, you kind of can't tell if you're miniature or if they're huge. You know, there's this real question of like, what is the scale here? Right? And that's only possible because it's your scale and you're confused, right? If it's small, we kind of like instantly see it as this foreign object. But I mean, I've been painting big since like undergrad, and I feel like most galleries keep saying, Gee, could you make it smaller? Could you make it just a little smaller? And so I don't know. The goal is to to keep going. And I mean, I used to work in on theater sets and so I'm used to this like really massive scale that I'd like to I'd like to work at in the future.

Craig: [00:36:09] I feel like it would be tempting to place things, animals or people in the scenes to indicate scale. But again, if there are foreign bodies that we don't really have a history of interacting with, it's hard for us to have the cues as to what the scale of the scene is, right?

Emma: [00:36:36] Totally. Yeah. You take out the recognizable figures. I mean, Peter Wolin, in that "Hidden Life of Trees", said there's no difference between a tree and a shrub. It's just the size. And like that has really stuck with me. I mean, why do we need a little rabbit in the corner to tell us how big we are? Why can't it be, you know, a flower or a fern or something? Because also, you know, we're so blind to these different types of species that we can't really even recognize an oak from a fig tree most of the time. So even if we use them, it's kind of doesn't help with our perception of scale.

Craig: [00:37:18] Well, let me ask you, where do you think where do you think you're headed? You know, five, five, ten years from now, maybe that's way too far out. But, you know, how do you think your work is going to evolve? Is there something you're interested in that you think may impact the direction of your work?

Emma: [00:37:37] Mm. Well, it's tricky because like I said, I'm kind of a Luddite and I don't I only know the tech as it helps me in painting. And so I think my honest answer might be that I'm going to be following the technology and that it's fascinating. You know, Adobe's about to release its whole new VR sculpture suite. To see sort of what will be achievable with these tools will be very interesting. I have a sense of like the scale I would like to be working at in five years and, you know, places that I would like to show. I think that my brief history of painting exhibitions now have been in very different cities, and I love that idea of bringing different types of landscapes to specific, you know, curating based on who's going to see it, where it's going to be. So so yeah, between the tech and then the the pairing, these hypothetical places with real places, I think that would be my answer.

Craig: [00:38:53] You know, something in your answer makes me speculate that you're thinking even bigger, like Julie Mehretu, you know, just giant, you know?

Emma: [00:39:03] Dreamy. Dreamy. Yeah. Oh, definitely. I've wanted that for the last 15 years. I mean, give it, give it to me. Give it to me right there.

Craig: [00:39:12] Yeah. I mean, but I don't know. Does that, you know, I don't even know the practicality of those. I mean, like, I don't even know how they live someplace other than being a mural, you know?

Emma: [00:39:23] But...well, that's the other thing is it kind of you pass this conversation around the art object and the art market and like, when you see a painting that's that big, it's an experience. It's a you know, you go into the Orangery and you see the Monets surrounding you, like that is not about any one specific painting. That is a whole other spiritual level. And I'd love paintings to, to do that to create or we're so oh is so rare in painting today.

Craig: [00:39:59] We just need to find a big atrium and a big building and just, you know, just fill it up, right?

Emma: [00:40:07] Totally. I mean, I saw the Kiefers in Venice. That was incredible with all the gold and also, you know, relating to set design and seeing the backs of these paintings and the the scaffold structure behind it was quite incredible.

Craig: [00:40:22] Yeah, I I'm a huge fan of Kiefer and, you know, haven't got him on the show yet, but, you know, every nine months I kind of ping someone say, you know, "is it possible that..."? And they're like, "No, not right now". Yeah, but.

Emma: [00:40:40] Dream big

Craig: [00:40:40] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I mean, it's just, you know, his work his work is really interesting to me in terms of just the layers and building up the texture and the all the veiled symbolism and tied to sense of place in his identity. And I don't know, I feel like it's really amazing stuff. And so.

Emma: [00:41:12] Yeah, I mean, open ambition is something that you don't see too often. But I just took a I just got my motorcycle license this weekend. And when I was on the motorcycle, the instructor would say, "train your eye, because where you look is where the bike goes". And I was like, That's a great, just Zen metaphor for life. Train your eye, because that's where your motorcycle is going, whether you want it or not.

Craig: [00:41:43] Wow. And so where where is your eye headed?

Emma: [00:41:51] Yeah, somewhere that's green. Awesome, I guess.

Craig: [00:41:56] And so there's this phthalo green that that you use that. And it just really resonates with me. I remember a couple of years ago I had a dream. I was in a space that was very much an Emma Webster sort of space, but it was, it was aquatic. I was I was like on a raft or something. But there were these huge waves in the sun was shining through. The waves in the color of the waves was this like phthalo green. And I have no idea what, what it all meant. But sometimes, you know, you just can have a really strong reaction to a color, right?

Emma: [00:42:37] Absolutely. I mean. I have that with green for sure. We all have it with green. I mean, our eyes are more sensitive to that hue. But green also is just fascinating color because it's. It means so many different things, and yet it is also I'm most interested in it as a green screen or as the non color, the color that gets replaced by everything else that somehow more important. But yeah, green is also super linked obviously with nature and with money and sickness, which I think you know, that's why green is like the color du jour. It's why green is its own zeitgeist, right?

Craig: [00:43:20] Well, if folks wanted to keep abreast of your comings and goings and where you're showing and what's available, where are the best places to to track your movements?

Emma: [00:43:33] Well, Instagram is like where I share what I'm doing. But next week, mid-October, I will be in Paris for Paris+ I have a big painting in the Perrotin booth. And then next spring in March, I'll have this solo show in Tokyo. And then after that, you know, we'll see.

Craig: [00:43:54] Cool. So, you know, is, is that...?

Emma: [00:43:58] Oh, yes. Thank you. That's the plug. for sure. That's like...there are more paintings and more information there.

Craig: [00:44:08] Cool. Well, I. I've really enjoyed our conversation and I can't wait to see more work from from you. And I can't wait to see the scale just get bigger and bigger and the curious light sources become more and more compelling. And I really appreciate you taking time out to speak with me today.

Emma: [00:44:29] Of course. No, thank you for having me. This has been super fun.

Craig: [00:44:40] That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to Art Sense. You can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rate the show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. And if you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read the transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to and click on the podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me. You can email me at Thanks for listening.

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