An Interview with Emma Critchley

Lemonade Magazine: For those who aren’t aware of you or your art, could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what you do?

Emma Critchley: My name is Emma and I am an artist working mainly with underwater photography and video. My work explores the human relationship with the underwater environment. I am interested in looking at the underwater space as somewhere that shifts how we relate to our bodies, and demands that we realign ourselves with sight, sound, breath and movement.

LM: Who or what inspired you to start photography?

EC: I started working with photography on my art and design foundation course at De Montfort University, Leicester. Before this I was a painter, but for some reason when I started the foundation course I got frustrated with painting and so I started working with photography. Discovering this new medium was very exciting and inspirational for me; I had some great tutors and used to spend hours in the darkroom.

LM: How did you find your time doing your Degree and Masters? Did it help you become the artist you are today? Or was it external factors?

EC: Both my BA and MA were invaluable experiences and have definitely helped develop my practice as an artist. I have been very lucky in having inspirational tutors and peers on both courses. My BA was where I started working underwater and where I really established my practice in this area; my personal tutor really encouraged me with this. The MA gave me the space, support and inspiration to develop my ideas; it challenged me to think and work in different ways.

LM: A lot of your photography is taken under water; can you explain what drew you to this?

EC: I was drawn to working underwater from an initial interest in my own experience of being in water and wanting to explore this in others. I’m interested in this place, where as humans we don’t belong and how being in the space affects how we relate to our bodies.

LM: Tell us about your series ‘Surface’, what was the creative process behind it?

EC: The series Surface captures the reflection of a figure that is lying below the water’s surface. I wanted to capture this ephemeral image that lies on the boundary between the two worlds of water and air. I am interested in the distorted quality of the reflected image, where the water acts as a conduit for the threshold state that the body enters when submerged.

LM: You have also expanded your visual language into film, ‘Reflection’ is a really interesting piece, could you explain a little of the background behind this video?

EC: ‘Reflection’ focuses on the relationship between the breath, time and consciousness and the contemplative nature of the underwater environment. In the piece, the subject’s reflection finds stillness through the extended duration of the breath-hold. The rhythm of the reflection provides a space for the viewer to engage with the subject. The work was initially inspired by Anselm Kiefer’s painting Star Fall; it explores the phenomenological way in which, when suspended in water for an extended period of time the body can start to lose its boundaries and feel as if it becomes part of the surrounding space.

LM: You are currently involved in an exhibition at the Science Gallery in Dublin. How did this exhibition come about and what work are you exhibiting?

EC: The video piece ‘Single Shared Breath’ is in the Dublin Science Gallery in an exhibition called ‘Surface Tension: The Future of Water’. The exhibition was curated from an open submission from artists and scientists responding to the question; what is the future of water?

LM: Are you involved in any other exhibitions now or in the future?

EC: There are a few exhibitions on the horizon for next year, one being The Open West, which will be at Gloucester Cathedral in March.

LM: Do you have a favourite piece of work that you have created?

EC: I don’t really think I have a favourite piece of work; they become relevant or mean different things to you at different times.

LM: Who are your favourite artists, past and present?

EC: Hiroshi Sugimoto, Roni Horn, Ori Gersht, Matt Collishaw, Andrei Tarkovsky, Caspar David Fredreich.

LM: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for aspiring artists?

EC: Make sure you are passionate about and enjoy what you do as this is what will keep you going.

LM: What can we expect from you in the future and is there anywhere you would like your work to take?

EC: I would like to start experimenting with sound in my video work perhaps in more of an installation context.

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