Q & A with artist Emma Anna

Q & A with artist Emma Anna
IMAG_NE the possibilities
23 September 2015

For the last couple of months the sculptural installation, IMAG_NE by Sydney-based artist Emma Anna, has been providing a great selfie spot at the front entrance of the Library. We asked Emma to tell us a bit more about her career.

Why do you make art?

I started making art regularly as a form of creative therapy to balance out the boredom of my day job (I used to work in corporate communications) and it gradually took over my life. I really have no choice in the matter; these days it’s an absolute compulsion. I focus on making public art as a means of communicating ideas with a broad audience, inspiring personal reflection, inspiration and activation.

What artists are you looking at right now?

Dustin Yellin, because he’s taken collage into another dimension and is inspiring interesting new collaborations via his New York artspace Pioneer Works. Steve Lambert because he’s politically engaged and loves words. Doris Salcedo because she’s receiving her first retrospective exhibitions at the moment and continues to amaze me with the depth, strength and poetry of her sculptural works (and I’ve also been spending a lot of time in her homeland, Colombia, over the past five years). Banksy because Dismaland was an epic idea brilliantly realised.

What are you reading right now?

I’m re-reading Kevin Brophy’s Creatitivity: Psychoanalysis, Surrealism and Creative Writing which I do every couple of years. I’ve never been taught by Brophy but I feel connected to his classes through this text. It’s currently inspiring me return to my first love: creative writing. 

What three titles should always be on the shelves of any self-respecting bookshop?

Firstly, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) which I loved even before I started spending time in Colombia. Then there is Codex Seraphinianus (1981) by for it’s detailed and wondrous visions of a fantasy land and its creatures created by Italian artist and industrial designer Luigi Serafini. And thirdly, anything by design guru Bruno Munari especially his seminal work, Design as Art (1971).

three book covers

Covers of Bruno Munari, Design as Art  2008, Luigi Serafini, Codex Seraphinianus  1981 and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude  1967

How would you describe your latest sculpture/installation?

My latest work is an installation of concrete poetry commissioned for a series of light boxes at Carlton Library for the City of Yarra, in Melbourne. E_SCAPE / REAL_TY / PERFEC_ / HOL_DAY again makes use of Scrabble letter tiles as the basis for the work. The tiles are like my version of ancient rune stones that I use to ignite the audience's imagination through wordplay, absence and humour. The work will be on display from October.

What was the hardest part of making the IMAG_NE installation? 

The hardest thing for me in relation to the IMAG_NE project is managing it from a distance. I’m fortunate enough to spend a large part of the year overseas for work, and even luckier to have built a network of associates who help me to keep the IMAG_NE project rolling all over the world. 

Did you realise there are two anagrams that can be made from the letters in IMAG_NE? One is ENIGMA, the other is GAMINE.

Can you name three works of art—book, painting, music—that have influenced your own development as an artist?

  1. The Art of Looking Sideways by British graphic design guru Alan Fletcher—a constant source of inspiration 
  2. Max Ernst Une Semaine de Bonte for its ideas about college narrative and surrealism
  3. Joseph Cornell’s box assemblages which inspired my first solo exhibition, Dear Indigo

Who is your favourite literary hero or heroine?

Alice in Wonderland (of course). This image is a collage narrative chapter, from a book I made in 2008 that illustrates a kind of Alice-like moment in my life, Enter New World of a Twisted Wonderland.

 Emma Anna, Enter New World of a Twisted Wonderland  2007

What’s the strangest piece of advice you’ve ever been given as an artist?

I don’t know if it’s strange, but it’s certainly stayed with me! Musician Martin Martini once told me "Consider your career a chess game, the board as the art world, the pieces are the characters you’ll come across… and always be thinking three moves ahead."

What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked about your artworks?

"Would it be OK for me to get it as a tattoo?" (Yes, can you imagine, the individual wanted a tattoo based on my installation IMAG_NE ).

What are you working on now?

I’m working on collages for my ongoing series The New Old World (The N.O.W.)—a hyper-colour vision of my personal utopia.

Emma Anna, Scissor Eye  2015

What do you love about libraries?

Libraries are places of quiet and poetic sanctuary. They hold keys that unlock the imagination through the stories, characters and ideas that they shelter. Libraries are temples of knowledge and as everyone knows, knowledge is power. 

Emma Anna's sculpture IMAG_NE is part of her ongoing fascination with putting words and language into public spaces, and seeing how people respond. Take a selfie #NLAimagine on our Imaginarium Family Day on Sunday 11 October from 1–4pm; a day all about words and the imagination. Watch the grand final of the Scrabble ACT competition, plunge into a world of riddles and cryptic crosswords with wordsmith David Astle, and plenty more.

So proud of her works