Artistic License: Emma Berkery - The Gloss Magazine

Artistic License: Emma Berkery

An exhibition of new paintings by Belfast-based artist Emma Berkery explores the psychology of hope and is inspired by her father’s eternal optimism …

‘Unrest’, by Emma Berkery

How do you describe your work? 

My painting is rooted in abstraction which I use as the vehicle to process, repackage and reflect to the viewer our shared experience of the world. Resisting singular interpretation, my paintings act as conversations and explorations of the materiality of paint with powerfully evocative colour combinations. For the viewer, they both depict and create experiences.

‘The Day I Met Mitchell,’ by Emma Berkery

What or who has influenced your artistic journey? 

My work is influenced and frequently references the work of great modernist painters such as Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko, Cy Twombly, Joan Mitchell, Morris Louis, and Lee Krasner. I was fortunate to grow up next to the Shannon River in Limerick, and I am sure this has had a bearing on the fluid aspects of my style.

‘Rhythm,’ by Emma Berkery

What was the inspiration for your latest exhibition? 

This exhibition of new paintings is inspired by my father’s eternal optimism. His constant refrain on rainy West of Ireland childhood holidays ‘look it’s breaking beyond’ as he gazed to the horizon has remained with me, and fostered an interest in the psychology of optimism and how it impacts the quality of the human lived experience. Over the last number of years, the conceptual concerns of my work focus on the cognitive effects of environment, the effects on our sense of self, as we struggle with the perpetual anxiety of living in today’s tumultuous global situation.

‘Reflect and Understand,’ by Emma Berkery

Have you any favourites from this exhibition?

Ah that is like asking a parent to choose between their children! Impossible!
My paintings are frequently instigated by experiences in natural environments. They resist singular interpretations, having instead multiple readings that are evocative of inner and outer landscapes. My need to paint comes from an innate need to communicate the deeper emotions and experiences that I have no words for. This exhibition brings together several works on board alongside larger paintings on canvas, so there is vast variety of scale.

I am delighted with the comments about the works so far. They are really resonating with people. One person said of “Reflect and Understand makes me want to weep it is so beautiful.” The words, “stunning; pumped full of energy; incredible” have been used.

As with much abstract art, my paintings need time from the viewer to be fully appreciated. I am often told by people who have purchased my work in the past that they are continuously seeing new things in them.

‘Hide and Seek,’ by Emma Berkery

Where and how do you work? 

My studio is in Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, an Irish language arts centre located in the Gaeltacht area of West Belfast. I hold a long-term residency as Associate Artist with the centre, and since 2019 I have been supporting the development of visual arts within the building.

I paint with a process led, reflective methodology, incorporating a symbolic palette with fluid organic forms, collocated with conscious and subconscious structure and gesture. The paintings are built up in layers, as I consider and respond to each layer in turn. Beginning on unstretched canvas at a certain point in the process I will stretch the painting and then respond further giving attention to the square boundary. Through this reflective practice I place complete trust in the process and action of painting and allow the artworks to evolve over time into their final form. This often takes many months.

How has your work evolved would you say? 

Through paint I am constantly striving to communicate drama, movement, emotion, to touch the subconscious and stir something within my audience that causes them to pause and feel. As humans we are constantly evolving and adapting to new realities. Reflection is central to my working process so naturally my painting practice evolves in response to what I am trying to express at a given moment.

Need to Know:  It Might Be Hope…Who Can Tell? – A Solo Exhibition by Emma Berkery is on at SO Fine Art Editions, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, 59 William Street South, Dublin 2, from March 16 to April 13;


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