4–10 June 2019
Emily Ponsonby is a British artist, primarily known for her fascination with the female form. For the last year, she has immersed herself in a residency revelling in the light, colours and energy of Cape Town.
Over the last 8 years, Emily has developed a technique based upon the Ancient Egyptians’ Encaustic process, melting honeyed beeswax between layers of oil. On arrival in South Africa, her use of natural materials remained steadfast, but a lighter, freer approach to painting – emblematic of the landscape around her – felt far more fitting. After much experimenting Emily now works exclusively with watercolour and gouache, drawing her figures out from between layers of fabric in an attempt to unearth how it really feels to be nude. The paint takes charge of the canvas, swirling, spreading and sculpting the bodies organically, illustrative of nature itself.
Having worked in Edinburgh, Hong Kong, London and Italy, Emily has exhibited with galleries throughout the UK, including The Royal Society of Portrait Painters, The ING Discerning Eye and The Society of Women Artists. She has been short-listed for the BP Portrait Awards and has attended City and Guilds of London Art School, Leith School of Art in Edinburgh, Charles Cecil in Florence and The Royal Drawing School in London.
In June 2017, her first sell-out solo exhibition in London, ‘SOAK’, gave a window into the unfettered joy of real nudity, revealed through a cornucopia of bathing bodies. A few months later, she curated and exhibited ‘HAIR’, a group show of paintings by four female artists. ‘Fabulous heads’ of hair were unearthed across London, and their stories told through the many conversations had whilst they were being painted from life.
And now she’s back, exhibiting in the very place that all of her paintings start their lives, in the Aladdin’s cave that is Green and Stone.
I am fascinated by the layers of the female form – delving below the skin to question how it really feels to be nude, to be natural and to be of the earth.
During my year and a half in Cape Town, I embraced the city’s infectious, seize-the-day, mentality. Never before had I felt so strong in mind and so much in touch with every curve of my body. I love the light there – and how my life was lived outdoors – allowing me to reach beyond where I had previously allowed my body and mind to wander.
I felt the need to encourage eyes to open, lungs to breathe and the natural, random landscapes of life to be noticed and appreciated. Where better to start than the naked form? Highly decorative mirages of textures and tones, nudes are human landscapes in themselves – expressing purity, vulnerability, strength and vitality combined.
Every aspect of my painting process works in harmony to radiate a sense of bare skin upon skin. The soft fragility of the materials I use, as well as the natural, non-toxic paint, are an integral part of my work.
I blot and sweep the pigment across the surface of the fabric, drawing the figures out as if unearthing a fossil from a face of rock. But it is the paint that takes charge, not me. It bleeds and seeps through the material organically, emblematic of the ever-shifting African scenery that was around me.
The landscape of the nude body is pure, honest and raw. And, as an artist, I celebrate every contour, curve and nuance that highlights each person’s individuality.