Wednesday, 29 September 2010

INTERVIEW: Emma Alonze

Next up in my little batch of friend interviews is Emma. I first met Emma when we both had the pleasure of working for Debenhams as Visual Merchandisers in Leeds. She recently completed a really good project where she took a daily portrait of herself (I attempted a daily photo project and only got about half way through and gave up!).

Tell us a bit about your creative background…

I grew up in the seaside town of Scarborough. I went to a school where there was no uniform and we sung songs in assembly such as “Urban Spaceman” by the Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band and “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” by Cher. As a child and also throughout my teenage years I was encouraged by my parents to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. So, I decided to take up music. When I was 9 I started playing the guitar, my Dad’s a guitarist and I really wanted to be like him. The guitar lessons didn’t last very long though, and by the time I was 12 I’d given it up and had started singing lessons instead. I attended a music school most evenings after my normal secondary school hours and at the weekends. Most people don’t know this but I am classically voice trained to Grade 6 standard. I also play piano. But not very well! 

I left Scarborough at the age of 18 to study music in Newcastle, this is when things started to change…during my first year at college I had an epiphany, I realised that music was not for me. I left, took a year out and came up with the idea of applying to Leeds Art College to do my Foundation Degree in Fine Art. I never had any interest in art before so I have no idea why I decided to do this! I built up a portfolio in my own time, it consisted of a few rubbish videos and drawings! But I got a place! During Art College I specialised in Textiles which I hated! But I now work with Installation, Photography and Performance. After Art College I went on to study Contemporary Creative Practice at Leeds Met where I somehow managed to wangle a First class degree with Honours…

I have recently been applying for my MA and have won places at University of the Arts London and Parsons the New School for Design in New York.

How would you describe your work?

Most of my works are conceptual and are based on the everyday. They are usually bi-products of my perception of what others would often find mandatory happenings.    The one word that I have heard time and again when people talk about my work is ‘honest’. I do not view this is an accolade, nor a criticism but I have taken this on board and upon reflection realised that, yes, despite the obvious slightly bizarre twists my work contains it is (in all honesty), honest! All videos and sculptures have a certain honest quality to them. You do not need to spend hours, days or weeks on something for it to be instantly aesthetically pleasing, because my works are what they are and I think the main creative challenge is with the beholder as opposed to the creator. It does not matter that something is not ‘perfect’ because who is to say what ‘perfect’ is? I certainly would not like to hazard a guess so my loyalties forever lie with the ‘are’s’ and not the ‘want to be’s’. I am Emma Alonze and I can do whatever I want, I am glad if you appreciate it, and only sad if you de-value it.

What are your favourite mediums to work in and why?

Many of my pieces are life-based and are a constant work in progress. I have an eclectic approach to material and processes. I am fascinated by the everyday and try to use it as a kind of material. Work is generated quickly and I regularly use objects that crop up in everyday life/living because they are there, at hand, ready and waiting to be incorporated into a piece of work. I like to work quickly and keep certain spontaneous qualities - found objects, situations, characters and ideas can all reciprocate and propel my work.

What is your favourite piece of work you’ve created?

This is a difficult question…
I think it would have to be “Collecting Rolls” which started as nothing more than an immature play on words regarding “roles” and “rolls”. 

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Absurdity and a surreal sense of humour have a great deal of influence on what I do, and it is because of my own nature that pieces turn out to be quite off-kilter and left of the middle. It is not intentionally ‘outside the box’ but I believe that it also is not purely accidental. I have always had a sense of humour that is derived through osmosis of the menial things that surround me; the ergonomics of an object or the sounds animals make when they are in pain. Generally the reason I start something is because it tickles me, and it generates a life and meaning of its own from there. It can be anything from a simple passing visual or a turn of phrase that inspires me.

Who are your favourite artists/makers/creatives?

Oh Lord, where do I start!? Here are a few… Marina Abramovic, Pipilotti Rist, Sophie Calle, Miranda July, Aurel Schmidt, Yoko Ono, Fischli and Weiss, Elmgreen and Dragset, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Brigid Berlin, Harmony Korine, Lawrence Weiner…and the list goes on!

Do you have a day job or are you lucky enough to be a full-time artist? Tell us a bit about your routine…

At the moment I do not have a day job, although I am looking for one! Living in London on £65 a week is very difficult…I do feel lucky to have lots of time to be able to create work but at the same time having all this free time can work against you. I mean, just because I have a lot of free time does not necessarily mean that I create more work! I often find that having a job helps the creative process as free time becomes more valuable.

Do you have any projects that you are working on at the moment or ones in the pipeline that you’d like to share?

I am currently working on a project called “Temporary Shelters”. 

I have been building temporary shelters from items found in the house I am staying in. The project is based around the idea of being homeless but not in an “on the streets” sense. More of an “I don’t belong anywhere” sense. The shelters act as personal refuges.

What are your favourite TV shows/Books/Films/Websites to peruse?

I don’t have a tele so I don’t really have any favourite TV shows. But here are a few of my favourite films – Synecdoche, New York, Happiness (I really like Philip Seymour Hoffman), Confessions of a trickbaby, Buffalo 66 (and Vincent Gallo), The Holy Mountain, If, Red Road, The Wickerman, A Room for Romeo Brass and, I haven’t seen it yet because it’s not out until next week but Enter the Void by Gaspar Noe. I’ve been waiting to see it for about a year!

Books – Currently reading True Tales of American Life by Paul Auster but other favourites include, Leviathan also by Paul Auster, Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami, No-one belongs here more than you by Miranda July and White Noise by Don Delillo.

Where can we find your work? - filmed experiment, “In the Cold Light of Day” - “Shrine”, Installation


  1. Ahh Sahara! Such an interesting interview on a great artist and girl!

  2. Sounds like an idyllic childhood. Hope she gets a job soon :)


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