EMMA TALBOT TALKING TO ALLI SHARMA AT HER STUDIO, WALTHAMSTOW E17, APRIL 2010.
ET: Drawing is really important. I have no fixed plan of what Iâ€™m going to do, so itâ€™s a really open way of working. Something comes about which is a different mode of thinking. Itâ€™s like when youâ€™re doing something and you might think of something else completely random and you donâ€™t know why youâ€™re thinking of that, but you are. Itâ€™s that kind of space and it gets interesting when Iâ€™m trying to articulate that kind of space.
AS: Is text a recent addition to your work?
ET: I think the first time I used text might have been in the Nieves zine. Theyâ€™re either in bad capitals with a dot over the â€˜iâ€™ and things that youâ€™re not supposed to do if youâ€™re being very formal or theyâ€™re in a European font, from the 1930s, which was used for advertising or cinema posters; that type of information giving. Itâ€™s not my handwriting. Itâ€™s like painting words rather than writing.
AS: Youâ€™ve used both in â€˜The Beautiful Northâ€™.
ET: Iâ€™ve been going to Sheffield a lot recently, because Iâ€™m going out with someone who lives there. A lot of my family is from the North. So we go to Sheffield and then get the train to Manchester, or Liverpool, and do things and itâ€™s like falling in love with the North again after being in the South for such a long time. That painting includes the names of all the men from the North that I have loved, so thereâ€™s him and my brother, my dad, my uncle and my husband, who died and was also from the North.
AS: You lived in Jesmond, Newcastle?
ET: Yes. And at the top are images drawn from childhood memories. Every summer I used to go and stay with my grandparents in Wigan and I was remembering things like learning to make toast on the fire and my Grandad buying me my Olivetti typewriter and going round to relativesâ€™ houses.
AS: And sitting very politely on the sofa.
ET: Yes, while a dog eats your biscuit and youâ€™re too scared to tell it to get off. The bit in the middle is about a romantic weekend when I went to Newcastle, Sheffield and then Liverpool in one weekend.
AS: Is that a brooch in the centre?
ET: No, itâ€™s like if you looked at the thing as a whole, it could be a mirror, or some mirrored thing or a pub window, something like that. Itâ€™s like a really decorative container thatâ€™s broken. I think cities in the North are like that, there is a lot of Victorian decoration, itâ€™s very beautiful but itâ€™s also a bit ugly and broken. The mirror is one of the motifs I use. They provide a duality between something glamorous (reflective mirror, cut glass, diamonds or lace that could be a keepsake or embellishment) and something vulnerable to breakage and damage (for instance, the smashed mirrors or cracked pavements that superstitions can be based on). Within them, there is the idea that things can be lasting and/or broken.
AS: The painted text here gives the look of an advertising hoarding.
ET: Well that one does in particular because itâ€™s the idea of a promise, something that you wish for, that you have a desire for, and itâ€™s offered to you. Itâ€™s about that kind of relationship between things. Someone saying that theyâ€™ll do something and you want to believe them or you wish this would happen. Itâ€™s the space of advertising, in a way.