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The Nomadic Artist Who Is Always Painting On The Road

Art

Since 2018, artist Emily Imeson has been travelling around Australia living and painting out of a four wheel drive. Engagement with nature is so central to her practice, she seeks new environments to immerse herself in as often as she can. Paradoxically, change is her only constant.

While traversing the vast landscape, Emily’s focus has been narrowed to a few simple necessities: water, food, shade, weather, nature, and painting. This talented artist is living the  lifestyle most of us can only dream of!

27th January, 2021

Take Flight, On Desert Rain. Photo – Penny Clay.

Range Study 1. Photo – Penny Clay.

Cloudscape. Photo – Penny Clay.

Left: Sturt Desert Dance. Photo – Penny Clay. Right: Emily herself. Photo – Jacqui Turk.

Left: River Red, Study – Dusk. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Right: Range Study 3. Photo – Penny Clay.

Left: Dusk Range. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Right: Painting at Finke Gorge, land traditionally owned by the Western Arrernte people. Photo – Kieran Rangger.

Amber Rendezvous (triptych). Photo – Penny Clay.

Left: Sweet Devil. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Right: Major Major. Photo – Penny Clay.

Emily painting in Tyweltherreme (Ruby Gap), land belonging to the Western Arrernte people. Photo – Kieran Rangger.

Sasha Gattermayr
Wednesday 27th January 2021

‘I paint everyday and am constantly thinking and seeing the world around me as brush marks, colours and shapes.’ – Emily Imeson

Though her permanent home is a four wheel drive on a dirt track, artist Emily Imeson has roots in northern NSW. Originally from Orange, Emily’s immersion in nature began at an early age.

‘My fondest memories are riding through the trees on horseback, where we would spend hours watching birds or goannas,’ she remembers. ‘Growing up in regional areas meant I spent a lot of time outside, it became a place of wonder, imagination, unknown, and solace.’ After studying art at university, completing internships and winning scholarships, she took to the road in 2018 – travelling around the country with her partner in pursuit of new natural experiences.

As a result of embedding herself in different environments, Emily’s landscapes are produced from a place of intense affinity with nature (a state called ‘biophilia’). Deep ochres bleed into burnt reds and splashes of purple, while bursts of greenery or animal life animate the canvas with a living presence. Her car, soaring birds or swelling rainclouds create dynamism in every scene. ‘I am trying to find a balance between a visual landscape and the internal response generated by nature,’ she explains.

Emily’s distinctive style traverses many colours and weather systems, taking extra care to illustrate the continuous relationship between humans and nature. Painting is the lens through which she sees the world, and the mode through which she can engage most authentically with herself as part of an ecosystem.

‘I paint every day and am constantly thinking and seeing the world around me as brush marks, colours and shapes,’ she says. ‘I feel the land is a vast part of me.’

Her nomadic lifestyle has allowed her to embark on a painting-led inquiry of Australia. Her days are filled with exploring, reading, fishing, cooking, swimming, walking, and – of course – painting. When heavy rain falls, she completes applications, artist statements and general admin while she can’t paint.

Being on the road has also encouraged Emily to devise new ways of working. She began painting on the ground, or hanging a roll of canvas off the roof-racks and using the side of the car as an easel. She’s even used clumps of trees to fashion a natural gallery! ‘This way I was able to see how the works communicated with each other, and search for ways to resolve unfinished works’ the artist explains.

Despite her transient lifestyle, a few recent conditions have dictated a more sedentary lifestyle for Emily. As a recipient of the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2020 she completed a residency in Shark Island Institute in Kangaroo Valley last year (‘a beautiful property dedicated to encouraging creativity, and deepen social and environmental consciousness’). The 2020 travel restrictions also prevented Emily from straying too far from home, with she and her partner locking down on the east coast of NSW. Emily doesn’t see this as a disruption, though. It’s all part of the ebb and flow of life and place.

‘Isolation is not a factor for my partner and I,’ says Emily. ‘Whether we are camping in the Great Sandy Desert or in lockdown on the east coast, we are content.’

‘Ancient River, River Red’ by Emily Imeson opens at Saint Cloche Gallery on January 27th until February 7th. See more of the exhibition here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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