Interview: Emily Stollery

Soft Touch. 2018. Concrete, Foam, Plaster, Pigment. Dimensions Variable.jpg

Emily Stollery, Soft Touch, 2018.

Interview: Emily Stollery


20 January 2020

Emily Stollery is one of the 45 artists in Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2019, previously on show at Leeds Art Gallery and currently at the South London Gallery until 23 February.

Can you tell us a bit about your sculpture practice?

My practice largely revolves around material play; it’s the dominant force that drives everything I make. More specifically, I explore how I can shift the way we perceive these materials and exploit their properties. In some ways they’re removed from their associated contexts, and in other ways I shift how these materials perform in a space by breaking the ‘rules’ of my chosen medium. I work with a whole range of materials; most recently these include foam, concrete, wax and wood. Creating non-representational works brings the focus back to the material itself. How a viewer interacts and interprets the work is really influential in the direction it may take next.

Hold 2, 3, 4. 2019. Tulip Wood, Adhesive, Oil, Concrete, Pigment, Foam, Dowel, Screw. Dimensions Variable..jpg
Hold 2, 3, 4. 2019

As a sculptor, how would you describe your work’s relationship between ideas and materials?

I suppose you could say that the two are in parallel, one influencing the other as a work progresses. A lot of the time I allow the materials I work with to dictate the specifics of an idea.. I rarely ‘plan’ how a form will look, and instead think about which materials I want to experiment with, and let the work evolve from this. Many of the processes I use have a certain unpredictability about them, meaning you really have to work against a material in the moment. Resulting forms often don’t turn out how I may have first expected but I enjoy this energy in the work.

Soft Touch. 2018. Concrete, Foam, Plaster, Pigment. Dimensions Variable.jpg
Soft Touch. 2018.

This purposeful unplanned nature of my work also comes into play when it comes to placing my work in the gallery context. I love to work with the sculptures in situ, and it’s here where relationships between form and space begin to emerge. There’s a constant reworking and reinventing. Iteration after iteration works never quite exist in the same configuration. I love the spontaneity in my practice and it’s a crucial element of my making.

What does it mean to you and your practice to be selected for New Contemporaries?

It’s a fantastic opportunity to be involved in such a renowned touring exhibition. The whole experience has been extremely rewarding, and a great platform to receive feedback and encouragement regarding my work and practice as a whole. It was great to show new work I had produced outside of university, as well as my degree show installation. I really appreciate the exposure that New Contemporaries has given my practice, and it was so great to see my work amongst both diverse and exciting shows.

DSC01730.jpgStand, Lean, Others Don’t (They Don’t Do That). 2018. BNC19, Installation view Leeds Art Gallery

Congratulations on also being awarded Pangaea Sculpture Centre’s Sculpture Production Award in 2019, has this award changed anything for you?

Thank you very much! I was really shocked but over the moon to have received the Sculpture Production Award, and this has also been a great opportunity to push my practice in new directions. With the award I was able to work in residence with Lockbund Sculpture Foundry to develop a new series of works. It was such a great experience to work with so many new processes on varying scales; learning about traditional bronze casting whilst at the same time, attempting to manipulate it.

DSC02132.jpgIn residence with Lockbund Sculpture Foundry.

You now have a studio in One Thoresby Street, Nottingham. What advice would you give to other current and recent art students looking to pursue a career as an artist?

As a start, I would always advise to keep your practice ticking over- in whatever form that make take. Whether its physically making work, or keeping ideas in a sketchbook, I find its imperative to just keep doing, in order to keep on going. My other key piece of advice would be to not shy away from opportunities. I know that in the beginning I was so daunted by open calls, such as New Contemporaries, but its important to have confidence to put yourself and your work out there, as you’ll often find that doing one thing leads onto another! Momentum is key, however you can find it.

Looking at the year ahead, what are you currently working towards?

I’m currently working towards my first solo exhibition at four/four gallery in Nottingham. It’s the culmination of the work produced with Pangaea, as well as new works produced as a response to my residency with Lockbund Sculpture Foundry. I’ll be in residence with four/four before my exhibition, which will be a crucial and exciting time to be making work in the run up to the show. I haven’t had that much time to solely dedicate to my practice lately so I’m really looking forward to it. After that, I’d like to focus on my work with wood and hopefully reintroduce this to my practice. Naturally, when you leave university your practice has to shift in some ways. Mine did, as my sculpture was very workshop based. But it’s been an exciting change, to see how things adapt, and I’ve explored all sorts of other options I didn’t have the chance to whilst studying.

There’s a couple of other things I’m working towards and I’m excited to see how these unfold in the future.

Emily Stollery: BNC19 Artist Page