Finding Form, Thinking About Thinking
"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the things it loves."
As a child, at bed time, whilst waiting for sleep to descend, I would entertain myself by watching my thoughts. I would make a note of the starting point then (try to) relax and let my mind wander. After some minutes of this, I would pull the brakes on my train of thought and then work my way backwards to the point of origin. The intention was to figure out how I started with one thought and ended up somewhere else entirely in the space of a few minutes. It was like a contrary form of meditation. Rather than stilling the mind and focussing on the breath, I would instead focus on my thoughts and completely ignore my breathing. Sometimes I would also just see and feel patterns. It is a sensation difficult to describe, a strange confluence of seeing, thinking and feeling. I remember a kind of shaking sensation that was accompanied by a visual of fine, black scribble. Another version was a soft, dense, white, rubbery feeling - like biting into an eraser. At other times I would play a game that involved visualising the colours of numbers and letters.
I have always loved the associational journeys that the brain makes.
I have always loved thinking about thinking.
The processes of making these paintings in a sense mirrored the circuitous routes of my thought pathways and an ever changing emotional landscape. They underwent numerous transformations over a period of some months. Compositions would continually shift, colours would be re-mixed and re-applied until they were exactly the right hue. It was at times a difficult process with no certain outcome. Many of them were initially quite complex, a layered grid of gestural and painterly marks. Gradually these earlier layers would be covered with flat paint and the introduction of more distinct forms and geometric patterns. Seemingly random and indecisive, these actions of layering paint, of revealing and obscuring, echoed a voyage of ideas, memories and dreams.
In a sense these paintings are cerebral self portraits or snap shots of my mind in action. They are about thought processes, decision making, questioning, remembering, day dreaming, freedom, boundaries and the linkage of ideas and sensation. They are about how an idea can form from something that may initially be indistinct and end up as something concrete, how the organic forms of dreaming and reverie relate to the more structured trajectories of rational thought.
The language of abstraction and the use of geometric pattern alongside organic forms have helped me to visually depict these somewhat nebulous processes of the mind.
"Still in her mid-30s, Emma Walker is already one of Australia’s most convincing and original painters. Her work is as audacious as it is poetic; the one quality leavens the other, so that just as delicate reverie sets in, you’re pulled up by a less immediately seductive note, an act of painterly boldness or some other form of tough, enlivening aesthetic decision.
Walker’s work gets stronger with the years, treading the sometimes overtrodden path between representation and abstraction in a way quite unlike any of her contemporaries. She orchestrates her constantly returned-to motifs – seas, inlets, rivers, headlands, skies, clouds and shadow – in ways that are constantly invigorating.
The emotions and moods of her works are conjured directly out of the processes of painting, unmediated by theory or jargon. And yet these are intelligent paintings – intelligent in their understanding of ambiguities, of space, and of colour. They are extremely sensitive to mood, at times reminiscent of the work of the American Luminists – especially Martin Johnson Heade’s atmospheric subtlety and bold use of pooling blacks in paintings such as Approaching Thunder Storm, 1859, and Thunder Storm on Narragansett Bay, 1868. But Walker updates the idiom with her bold and brushy way with paint and her tremendous array of textural effects.
Her works on paper are also compelling, suggesting new possibilities of texture and scale, playing deftly with poetic links between the microscopic in nature and the distantly observed'.
- Sebastian Smee