From underneath - Regional News | Connecting Wellington
Emma Hercus with dog Ricky in her studio | Issue 221

Emma Hercus with dog Ricky in her studio

From underneath by Alessia Belsito-Riera

When artist Emma Hercus discovered a suitcase filled with old family photographs, she found that the act of foraging through the past bridged the gap between generations while also inspiring artistic creation.

She began to delve deep into a rich vein of nostalgia, using the photos as a palette of stories, emotions, and visuals to create Kindred, her newest exhibition at Twentysix Gallery from the 7th to the 23rd of June.

As I get older, I am more interested in where I have come from. Who came before me, what did they do, what were their interests, what is our culture? How is our small family similar to them? Nature versus nurture? That kind of thing,” Hercus says, adding that she was massively inspired by the ancestors she encountered. “As I painted the characters and pored through countless photos, I felt like I was getting to know them.”

Hercus uses the images only as a guide, reimagining them by embellishing, altering, and combining elements to create new stories altogether. “My paintings are full of colour, pattern, texture, and characters. I paint loosely from life, taking inspiration but never being tied to the reality,” she says. She mixes mediums, making layer upon layer before scraping and sanding them back to uncover the images climbing through from underneath.

This process enables her to explore concepts of memory and identity – both in their formation and evolution – making Kindred deeply personal while simultaneously engaging with universal themes of family, memory, and the passage of time.

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« Issue 221, June 4, 2024