A vibrant mélange of cross-cultural traditions, Emma Gale's imagery explodes with eclectic dynamism. Inspired by the traditional motifs from various world cultures and the natural ornamentation of birds and animals, her works lead us along unfamiliar pathways and into fantasy realms where exuberance and colour are the order of the day.

"Having a background in textile design, pattern plays a large part in my work," says Emma. "I am attracted to regalia and adornment in every form. Inspiration comes from everywhere. The beaded guls (medallions) from Afghanistan, a string of African trade beads, Pakistani tribal jewels, a pattern on a kilim rug, an old Moroccan tile in a mosque, or simply the colour combination on a traditional Lao costume, they all provide creative stimulus."

Emma's synthesis of disparate decorative elements is epitomized in her now iconic Frida Kahlo imagery but the exhilaration of a very recent trip to New York City was the catalyst for new exploration into the potential of pattern. "I was so excited to be in the ‘Big Apple' - the city that never sleeps. Well, I certainly didn't want to, not enough time to see everything! The chaotic, electric vibe was infectious," enthuses Emma. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art totally blew my mind. Wow! I had goose bumps in every room. The colossal scale of the building and the amount of priceless antiquities was unbelievable. I was in awe."

She tells of being particularly impressed by the marble statues and busts from the Ancient Greek and Roman Classical periods. "I've never really looked at these sculptures before but their presence in the museum was overwhelming. I came home with hundreds of images and have used those figures as ‘blank canvases' on which to create my own faces and bodies; creating something new from old. Collaged and painted, the patterns in these works now accentuate the subject's form rather than being purely decorative."

A celebration of pattern and colour colliding with text and form is how Emma describes her collaged works. "I like to mix and match textures; fusing crayon, pencil, feathers, fabric trims, magazine snippets and any bits that take my fancy. I've discovered that ripping paper off after it's been glued to the surface can create a layered, aged effect. The use of typography creates a kind of wallpaper where the letters develop into patterns amongst themselves." Emma's combination of imagery and text is intended to facilitate the viewer's interaction with her underlying narrative.

Increasingly, Emma's canvases explore the variegated natural embellishments of wild creatures. "The striking patterns in a bird's plumage and the markings on the animals that roam the African plains offer endless creative possibilities. I do love the exotic, the different, the special," she declares. But it is not only the decorative devises to be found in far off lands that inform the Bangalow-based artist's imagery. "My everyday surrounds ignite my imagination on a daily basis. The simple things, the ones we see everywhere also interest me. I have a need to transform the mundane in a way that makes us look at the ordinary in a different way. Pattern and shape is in everything I see."

Emma attended the Julian Ashton School of Art, Sydney, 1989 - 1991 and studied silk-screen printing and textile design at the National Art School, Sydney, 1991. She won the Border Art Prize, 2010 and has been a Finalist in the Border Art Prize 2012, Prometheus Art Prize 2011, Artfelt Art Award 2011 and FEHVA Portrait Art Prize 2009. Emma was invited to contribute a work for the As You Dreamt It, Woodville project, 2014. During 1991 - 1993 she established the Tukul Craft Workshop in Cairo, Egypt; a non-profit organisation set up to train Sudanese refugees in the techniques of screen-printing their traditional African designs and patterns onto range of products.



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