emma langridge


emma langridge

It is too easy to liken Emma Langridge’s work to that of Sol LeWitt, Bridget Riley, and other post 50’s Minimalist artists, but her imagery is not as exacting. Although her approach is mathematical, and sometimes as clinical, she relishes the accident as a progression of the creative process.

Langridge abandons the canvas, preferring to work on the harder surfaces of board and aluminium. She meticulously layers the already primed surface with masking tape, on which she rules rows and rows of parallel lines that are scored with a scalpel. Alternate strips are removed, and the stenciled surface is re-painted and left to dry.

Whilst painstaking in its preparation the end result can be elusive. As the final taped sections are peeled back, the raw elements of the constructed line, their proportions and base colour resonate in complex geometric forms. The bleeding paint remains, marking human touch, and creating tension between object and observer.

‘I like that juxtaposition between the so-called perfection and the fact that it’s hand made, and that you get this kind of visual static.’

Langridge draws inspiration from the structural fundamentals of electronic music, architecture, and literature. It is in these practices that she finds the most basic of functions, the passing of information, to be at its crucial juncture. Here, the foundation, the make-up, and the communicative layering are vital, for without them nothing can exist.

Dave Hagger recently caught up with Emma to see where exactly she sits in regard to Australian art today.

DH: Abstraction, like photography, gets a bit of a rough ride here in Australia. It just isn't as sought after or respected as it is in Europe or the US. Why do you think that is?
EL: Perhaps because Australia is traditionally a nation of knockers and abstract art is quite hard to defend to someone who thinks it is merely decorative, or worse, empty. I have had people tell me my work looks like nothing more than bathroom tiles.

DH: Rothko's 1953 "No. 2 (Blue, Red and Green) US$72.84 million record is a good example of the gross imbalance. The Australian auction houses have not yet realised AU$10 million for any artwork, let alone an abstract work. I think being so isolated, we rarely get to see the works of other nations' artists. Of course we see the works of the great masters, or significant others but not the grass roots artists - the emerging or mid career artists. We are not as spoilt as our international friends in that way. We seem to have a bit of an elitist society. Did you think we have a way to come before art is a part of everyday life for Australians?
EL: I think as a nation we are far from it yes, but I don't know that we are particularly moving in that direction at any great speed. I still feel like the great majority of people still are only just accepting of the Impressionists. They still ostensibly want ‘pictures of things’.

DH: On the whole we have been experiencing an upbeat art market in the past few years - which is promising. Do you keep an eye on what goes on around you in the art world? What your peers are doing?
EL: I tend to operate in a bit of a vacuum, partly because seeing other people's work often makes me panic! I always feel that I should get straight into the studio and start working… that every moment should be spent there.

DH: Are there any particular artists that you admire?
EL: At the moment I am particularly keen on the work of Brisbane artist Daniel Templeman, and also local Melburnians Magda Cebloki and James Parret. Historically however, I am still hung up on Richard Serra and Ellsworth Kelly. There was a Serra piece at the Guggenheim (in Bilbao, Spain), a few years ago and it was such a visceral experience... just incredible… and formed of such simple elements.

DH: Yes. That was ‘Serpent’ piece. I didn’t get to see that on my travels, nor ‘The Matter of Time’ installation, but I too have such great admiration for Serra’s work. The sheer volume is breathtaking. You can’t help but become overwhelmed. We are considered to be a nation that loves to travel and from our late teens we are often encouraged to take that sabbatical to 'broaden our horizons'. You have traveled to other parts of Europe. Did this change your outlook or practice at all?
EL: Absolutely. I was especially excited to see the big artists at small galleries. And seeing the same artists represented repeatedly, like Gerhardt Richter whose exhibition in Dresden was spectacular. I switched from timber to aluminium (as a support) after seeing this show. Being able to see huge collections of, for example, Cranach the elder alongside John Cage in the same space or complex was important too. It is a sign of respect that the two can stand side by side.

DH: I am recalling your Berlin works that were documented by Ken McGregor recently in his book ‘Unfinished Journeys’. Having seen some of these in the flesh, and also travelled to Berlin, I think your choice of colour was spot on. Was this intentional, or rather ingrained in your subconscious as an everyday surrounding?
EL: It was very deliberate. The paintings based on the architecture of the Hansa Viertel were mostly strange pastel combinations. Those based on the Potsdammerplatz area have exposed aluminium. I didn't try to replicate colours accurately however, merely to grasp some of the contrasts and combinations of the architecture and I suppose the mood also.

DH: Ken also explains the connection between your art and music, particularly the Detroit techno artist Carl Craig. His use of strings and layers is held in the highest regard by the widespread music community. Tell me what it is exactly that you take from this type of music to use in your paintings.
EL: I love the building up of layers and also the analogous nature of music without words and art without figures

DH: I find Theo Parrish, another Detroit native, has a similar arrangement to Craig in that he creates multiple layers to add and subtract from throughout the course of the track. It is so simple, yet so effective. The combination of two layers is incredibly different from any other two and this makes each track a story. To me there are direct similarities in your paintings.
EL: I like that comparison. I like the ‘dirtiness’ in a lot of electronic music as well: that looped static has a rhythm. Also I find a lot of this music has to be listened to for a long time and in a disinterested fashion, before you really see it for what it is, and are rewarded with enjoyment. I find this happens a lot with abstract work.

DH: What sparked the interest in electronic music?
EL: I started listening to it when I was at University. It really captured my mood at the time and it seemed so new and exciting. There really were no sub-categories at the time, and the Detroit guys were all so anonymous so it seemed like it had been made by aliens (or sub-aquatic beings as in the case of Drexciya!).

DH: You and your brother Martin have been Dj'ing since the early 90s when Ben Stinga's 'Purveyor' record store in Perth was in operation. He had a phenomenal influence on so many people in Perth. Do you think you owe him a beer for providing an avenue for your creative output that would otherwise not have been so readily available?!
EL: Maybe a brewery!!! And another for Shamus from ‘Auditory Spiral’ (RTR FM radio show) who really pushed my horizons off the planet.

DH: I understand you had, and still have, a strong following in Perth. Melbourne is rich with artists and galleries and countless festivals. Did these things make the decision to move from Perth to Melbourne definitive, as opposed to another state or back to the UK where you were born?
EL: Hmmm. Perth-ites have a longstanding tradition of moving to Melbourne, so I was picking the obvious choice for a change of scenery, however the art galleries, cool weather and lack of insects was a big draw-card!

DH: Maybe you should have tried Queensland. Insects aside, it is without a doubt Australia's current booming art market. Not just in terms of art trade, but also in the number of successful artists it is producing. Something in the water perhaps?
EL: I was recently in Brisbane and I am looking forward to heading up there again perhaps next winter. I think new architecture really draws people into art and makes them receptive to it, and this seems to be a really exciting time for the city.

DH: You have already mentioned Brisbane artist Daniel Templeman. Dane Lovett and your fellow Metro 5 colleague Anthony Lister, also Queenslanders, are continuing to do well as they have done for some time, and now Arryn Snowball and Gemma Smith have seemingly burst onto the scene. They are two abstract artists worth watching I think.
EL: There is a lot of great work out there, its true...

DH: So what is next for Emma Langridge? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
EL: Hopefully I will learn to space out my productivity and work more consistently instead of in bursts as I always tend to do! In terms of actual work, I am trying to experiment in a genuine way - which is harder than you might think for someone who has restricted her practice for so long - and want to work in the print medium as well as experimenting with scale. I am very excited at the moment about a few projects coming up. Perhaps another show, this time in Sydney, involving Andrew Gaynor.

DH: I want to leave you with something I read recently in a book about Lucien Freud. Sebastian Smee was asking to Freud about artists that were of interest to him.
SS: Have you ever liked abstract painters?
LF: I love Mondrian, but I don’t think he’s abstract. De Kooning? Well, he’s not really abstract either, and the more you look the more you see.

I found that remarkably intriguing. I still can’t work out what he means. Do you subscribe to this notion of classification? In this case what is and what is not abstract?
EL: I do within myself I guess. I usually refer to my work as non-figure based because in my mind it's not an abstraction of the subject but the creation of something new, from scratch. I like work that contains itself; it is the answer to its own question and the amalgamation of its own process.

Emma Langridge was born in Cheltenham, UK. She migrated to Western Australian as a young child before moving to Melbourne in 2001. She has exhibited extensively throughout Australia and has her work in some of Australia’s most regarded private and public collections. Emma Langridge is represented by Metro 5, Melbourne.