EMILY HILL

Emily-Hill_ImageFROM THE GROUND UP: THE ART OF DYED RUG PAINTINGS

Emily Hill is a recent graduate of Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Hill works with the dynamic tensions and structures found in textiles and ready-made objects. Recently, she’s been making paintings on Flotaki wool rugs. Emily has her first solo show coming up at Macaulay Fine Art on March 14. We stopped by her studio to talk with her about her work, her show and her sensibilities as an artist.

BeatRoute: First things first… how do you call these rug pieces properly?

Emily Hill: The version I use is ‘dyed rug paintings.’ When your work comes close to another discipline – for example, these works can be quite sculptural – there is something I like about the limit of calling them paintings. That arena for language is helpful.

BR: Using the word painting evokes a canvas more directly. It gives the viewer more of a reference point for how to interact with your work. 

EH: Well, the structure of painting has been turned on its head anyway. Throughout the past century it has allowed for all sorts of diversions within the discipline. The histories of dye and fibre are different than the histories of paint and canvas, but they’re obviously in such close proximity a dialog opens up in the space where they meet.

BR: What is thematically prominent in your mind right now when you’re making work? Or, if you could distill what you’re doing to a prominent meaning what would that be? 

EH: For me, art is inherently a place to negotiate the incalculability of all the things that accumulate into an art practice. Right now, my new body of work is focused on dyed rug paintings.

BR: Before you started dying rugs, were you leading up to it by exploring the readymade or interacting with similar materials… or were you doing something completely different? 

EH: For a while, I was making paintings on ready-made tarps. The imperfection of the plastic weave was really interesting and I was responding to the evidence of that in their mechanical production. These new works on rugs have such a cooperative structure themselves: they are hand woven but end up becoming an effortless looking expanse of fuzz. You have to search for any evidence of human touch.

BR: As far as the scale of your pieces go… 

EH: For me, it makes a lot of sense to use these rugs that are scaled around human beings. It’s that direct physical relationship. I think painting is a nice way of addressing our bodies.

BR: I’ve seen pieces of yours before where the colours melt more smoothly together but your latest work is more heavy-handed in a way. There is a really powerful energy coming from these lines. 

EH: I definitely believe in emotional responses to colour and line, and that does excite me.

It’s a vocabulary. There is a visual dynamic that happens where colours meet, and that has an agency of its own.

BR: How do you feel about taking these rugs you’ve bought, stripping them of their original use and writing a new history? 

EH: The part that is the functional object is important because they have a known place in the world, and it’s interesting to have that context. I also consider that they might live as rug paintings in the horizontal form at some point in their life.

BR: I feel like other artists would be really pissed about their paintings being used as functional rugs in houses! 

EH: Those limits aren’t that rigid—I find tension of function and art interesting. After all, I am the one making paintings on these rugs.

Emily Hill’s first solo show, Air Spill, opens at Macaulay Fine Art on March 14.

By Polina Bachlakova
Photo: Courtesy of Emily Hill

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