Thursday, 2 May 2013

Assessment 1 Emma Hack Written Report

Assignment 1: WRITTEN REPORT

Emma Hack - submitted by Maegan Scott

Emma Hack has evolved from an Adelaide based make-up artist and hairdresser, to an internationally acclaimed and award winning skin illustrator, studio-based photographer and diverse multimedia artist.  With over 20 solo exhibitions throughout Australia, she has exhibited worldwide since 1999. Commercially extending her career, Emma’s clients have included Toyota, Tiffany, Sony, and Cirque du Soleil, amongst others. Her works suggest “a rich array of visual narrative and magical realism,”[1] inspired by various artists and nature.

Emma drew inspiration by exploring ‘camouflage’, used by iconic model, Veruschka from the 1960-1970s, who painted herself into walls and naturalistic settings, and a 1992 Vanity Fair cover of Demi Moore. In her photographic prints, Emma uses the human body as her canvas. “She carefully camouflages the human form with hand painted designs that meld her subjects with the background. Her work incorporates multiple mediums and styles to produce work that is distinctly her own.”[2]  “When viewing her work, one could be forgiven for thinking that she creates her works with Photoshop layering and transparency techniques.”[3] Intrigued viewers react to Emma’s unique style, when they realise a human form or animal is hidden within the work.

Emma spends hour’s painstakingly painting models without stencils or projection. Initially, she would paint and a photographer would capture the final image, however, Emma now photographs as well. When creating images, she ensures the lighting minimises shadows, so the design integrates seamlessly from body to background. Emma first paints the wall and then positions her model, with the camera five metres away. Constantly looking back through the lens and sizing up the image, Emma paints her first lines on the model’s shoulder. Continuing this labour-intensive method, working down the sides of the body, she adjusts the brush strokes. When finished, the model’s body is a continuation of the design and the photograph reflects a unique work of art, accentuating rather than hiding the beauty and grace of the human form. In my opinion, the designs which can take up to 15 hours, uniquely translate her intentions.

Commercially, Emma is well-known, her profile skyrocketed with her collaboration on Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used To Know”.  She then created ‘Body Crash’ (See Figure 1) for South Australia's Motor Accident Commission, as part of a campaign to lower road toll. The photograph portrays a crashed car, but in reality is 17 bodies forming a wrecked car. The five layers of paint, posing and photography took 18 hours to complete. Irrespective of the time and patience taken for completion, I appreciate the photograph for its message and creativity, with the detail on the human figure, enhanced by colours and light.

Emma’s photographs for Natura, which represent the Amazon Forest and River, appeal to my interest in nature and landscape photography. The connections between colours, textures and vibrancy of the scenery, have been captivatingly expressed onto the human form and canvas, then photographed as a whole for tourism.

Figure 1: Body Crash

Aside from commercial designs, she is well known for her ‘Collections’. ‘Signature Prints’ (publishers of Florence Broadhurst Wallpaper range), gave Emma access to over 530 designs, which began her Wallpaper Collections from 2005 - 2010. She experimented further, adding creatures to express her love for Australian animals and concern for the environment. ‘Owl in Woods’ 2011 (See Figure 2) from her ‘Birds of Prey’ Collection, features native Australian fauna and “revisits Emma’s love and fascination of combining birds [owl, Wedge-tailed Eagle or Peregrine Falcon] within her artwork.”[4] The photographs suggest the idea of humanity taking over the environment and perhaps animals beginning to camouflage within our environment.

Figure 2: Owl in the Woods

Emma has experimented with other designs, such as the ‘mandala’ or ‘circle’, as a visual representation of wholeness and patterns of life. From her collection ‘Exotic Mandala’, ‘Exotic Bird’ 2010 (See Figure 3) is a photograph which I find particularly intriguing and beautiful, because it captures “…the beauty of art nouveau inspired designs with butterflies placed on her muse.”[5] This photograph inspires me because I appreciate the time required to align the mandala through a camera lens and brush strokes. I admire the representation of beauty and nature through the peacocks and butterflies, with the contrasting bold red.

Figure 3: Exotic Bird Mandala

Emma’s latest collection, ‘Blue and White’, features the evolution of blue and white ceramics from Asia to Europe through centuries of trading. Initially this collection did not appeal to me, because of the similarity to vintage crockery and hoarding. However, through research and viewing the whole collection, (See Figure 4) the integration of quirky features symbolising different countries, such as dragons or native flora, fascinated me.  

Figure 4: Blue and White Collection

Emma’s ‘Pop!’ collection, links to her fascination with the 1960’s Pop Art genre, strong women and a modern day approach to Roy Lichtenstein’s comics. There are 3 sub-collections; ‘The Optimists' (positivity), 'Lessons of Love', (getting over breakups), and '.com' (women in social media) (See Figure 5). Personally, growing up in today’s evolving social generation, with comic books and having been through break-ups, loss of friendships and deaths, gave me insight into Emma’s objective and appreciation of these photographs in context.

Figure 5: Google It


As a whole, Emma Hack’s collections portray subjects camouflaged into surreal backgrounds, in which we can relate to. Her photographs reflect the beauty of the feminine spirit and how people immerse themselves into their environment. She depicts her intentions with a respect for nature, which is what I find most appealing and appreciate about her photographs.

Word Count: 901


Figure 1: Body Crash:
Figure 2: Owl in the Woods:
Figure 3: Exotic Bird Mandala:

Figure 4: Blue and White Collection:
Figure 5: Google It:

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