Behind the scenes: Emma Currie studio
Capturing the intangible sounds like an oxymoron, yet it’s exactly what Emma Currie does in her paintings. The Melbourne-based artist’s work conveys a sense of stillness and reflection that somehow can be simultaneously seen, felt, and experienced through her cropped compositions and abstract figurative paintings.
Emma Currie at her home studio in Thornbury
Currie’s work possesses the ability to transport you to a place of tranquillity where time stands still.
Immersing yourself in one of her oil paintings invites you to live within her musings—a minute, a moment, a memory—and find peace there.
Spanning both large scale interpretations of the female form and small still-life snapshots, her work both challenges and celebrates concepts of beauty and femininity. Favouring earthy colour palettes (burnt sienna, cherry reds, apricot tans), she combines fluid curves with rigid lines, painting from a written prompt in her journal or a saved image on her phone. Her artistic process then involves reference photos and sketches before gridding up her canvas and building the colours and shadows from dark to light.
A lover of the nature of oil paint, Currie has always been drawn to the vibrancy of the colours and the flexibility of textures you can achieve with the medium.
Currie’s debut solo show for the Design Files in 2020 sold out in a matter of hours, with a second exhibition in 2021 following suit. Last year, she exhibited works in a collaborative group show at Backwoods Gallery, has also shown internationally, and has work held in several private collections.
In her large, cubist-inspired works, vibrant shapes and shadows find their place like puzzle pieces, while in her smaller paintings, moments of intimate introspection are treated with simplicity and subtly. A naked woman gazes out of her bedroom window, as sunlight hits her crumpled pinstripe sheets. A familiar, ordinary scene somehow becomes extraordinary—and therein lies the power of Currie’s paintings.
“I’m really interested in small moments of stillness that go unnoticed”, she says. This focus on stillness pervades both her work and her practice, though in her garage studio, Currie allows the soundtrack of everyday life to filter in with the afternoon sun. And then, just as effortlessly, Currie’s paintings filter the noise back out.
For some of us, working from home is a relatively new concept. But for Currie, that’s always been the case. In the past, her studio has been a spare room in her home, and she’s spent time carefully curating the aesthetics to match her interiors. But recently, she moved her studio into her home garage in the inner-city Melbourne suburb of Thornbury and spent less time curating and more time creating.
Spacious, secluded, and as laidback and relaxed as Emma herself, her garage studio is a celebration of simplicity and functionality. She sits at a clothed table and paints with comfort and ease amidst a sea of ‘stuff’—a vase of pink lilies, a pile of scattered paint tubes, a cup of herbal tea, a candle melted all the way down to wax stump. It truly has the look and feel of a real artist’s space.
Jazz plays softly through a radio while her dog rests on the lounge behind her. Works—some complete and others still in progress—lean against the walls, while others hang on the white painted brick. A series of three smaller works, or ‘moments’, as Currie might call them, feature two close crops of a woman’s delicate collarbone and a loosely made bed.
There’s something quintessentially Australian about the space, too. A classic metal hills hoist sits in the backyard, while Currie’s car is parked in the driveway because the garage is full to the brim of oil paints. With the roller door open, you can hear a symphony of suburban sounds—birds sing and sirens wail, yet Emma remains exactly as her work suggests: focused and still.