Exploring Life (and the afterlife) with artist Emma Hampton Walshe

Melbourne-based artist and illustrator Emma Hampton Walshe is about to open an exciting new, two-part show at our favourite Collingwood outpost, Off the Kerb.

Called There there // You’re Dead, the shows are a juxtaposed journey though Hampton Walshe’s sweet little world of pencil illustrations, filled with fairytale faces and cosy scenes, and beyond into a gathering of more colourful pieces that deal with heavier subjects.

Courtesy of Emma Hampton Walshe. All rights reserved.

Built around the ideas of contrasting themes and life and what might come after, There there // You’re Dead aims to explore the idea of returning to earth upon passing and the new life that comes forth.

I recently had the chance to chat with Emma about her upcoming show, painting on skateboards, and much more:

Tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your background, and how did you get to be where you are now?

Emma Hampton Walshe: I grew up in a small town in North East Victoria and after High School went on to study Printmaking and Drawing at the School of Art at the Australian National University in Canberra. I then went on to do a Postgraduate Diploma in Graphic Design and have been working as a Designer predominately since finishing the course.

Art and illustration sat on the back burner as more of a hobby for a long time and it’s really been in the last 5 or so years that I have really been working to create more art and grow my own illustration business.

‘There there // You’re Dead’ is a two-part show. What inspired that decision?

EHW: I think it partially came about because I am a bit indecisive and wanted to work on two different ideas at once. I had started out with the “You’re Dead” show but felt I also wanted to work with something more soothing at the same time.

The ‘There there’ portion of the series sounds very sweet and whimsical. Tell us a little bit more about this first part of the show – what is it about, and how does it lead into the second?

EHW: ‘There, There’ came from fond thoughts of the impending colder weather, the warm, fuzzy joy that is curling up in a blanket and hibernating. I think that it is hard to see a link between the two shows but I also feel that the link is really in the contrast, the light and dark elements of both the shows.

‘Children of the Moon’, Gouache, 2016. Emma Hampton Walshe. All rights reserved.

Offhand, ‘You’re Dead’ sounds vaguely ominous. But the way you explain it – as being an exploration of “the idea of returning to the earth upon passing and the new life that comes forth” – feels actually very comforting. Can you give us some insight into how you’re approaching the second part of the show?

EHW: ‘You’re Dead’ came about from the idea that in the end we are all born from the same elements from events that happened an unfathomably long time ago. That lead me to think about what happens when we pass away and how we will become a new life beyond that. My way of illustrating this is through my little characters heads which I am calling ‘seedpods’ and how they are sown into the earth and for the new life to come forth.

‘There there’ is a collection of pencil illustrations, whilst ‘You’re Dead’ is a more colourful selection of works. Why the two different approaches?

EHW: This was done purposefully to create contrast between the two shows. I really wanted ‘You’re Dead’ to feel bright and cheery despite its darker side and the opposite for the more calming ‘There, There’ series.

Courtesy of Emma Hampton Walshe. All rights reserved.

What is it that you enjoy, respectively, about the different mediums? Do you have a preference?

EHW: I think working with pencil/pen will always be my comfort medium, it is something that I am very familiar and well practiced with and so I do often find myself heading back to it after a while of playing with mediums. I am very fond of working with acrylic and gouache paints and have really only been painting with them for a few years. I enjoy them because I still feel I am learning new things all the time, new methods and techniques. With that can come some frustrations but I think those challenges make it more rewarding.

Your work tends to feature a lot of faces. What is it about faces that you find yourself drawn to as an artist?

EHW: The face is always the most intriguing part of a person for me. They can say so many things about a person without words and in my art it tends to be the first place I head to express thoughts. However it is something quite like using pencil that is also a comfort for me, I find it very relaxing to create a face. I have of late been trying to move from this so much and step out of my comfort zone, but I do know that I will always include them in my works in one way or another.

Courtesy of Emma Hampton Walshe. All rights reserved.

I’ve noticed you’ve been working on skate decks, of late; you were a part of ‘Varial’ at No Vacancy Gallery recently, as well. Is exploring new and different mediums and methods an important part of your artistic process?

EHW: Yes I really enjoyed creating a skate deck for ‘Varial’ it was a great new challenge for me, more so because my artworks are often quite small. I think exploring new mediums and methods is one of the greatest joys about creating art. There are so many different ways to create art and I really enjoy finding new ways to be creative.

What do you hope visitors to ‘There there // You’re Dead’ will take away from the show?

EHW: Oh gosh I just hope that it charms those who see it.

What’s next for you? Anything exciting we should be keeping an eye out for?

EHW: I have long been wanting to work on an illustrated children’s book so I have been laying out some plans for this to come about. I am really excited about the prospect of this.

Many thanks to Emma for taking the time to chat with us in the busy lead-up to her show!

Courtesy of Emma Hampton Walshe. All rights reserved.

Emma Hampton Walshe’s shows There there // You’re Dead open at Off the Kerb gallery on Friday the 10th of June from 6 ‘till 9pm. The show will run from June 9 – 23.

Off the Kerb is located at 66B Johnston Street in Collingwood, and is open from 12:30pm to 6pm Thursday – Friday, and 12pm to 5pm on Saturday + Sunday.

You can find more information about the gallery at their website: offthekerb.com.

You can find out more about Emma Hampton Walshe’s work at her webpage: dollsintrees.com

You can also follow her on all the networks you’d like –

Facebook: facebook.com/treedolldesign
Pinterest: pinterest.com/dollsintrees
Instagram: instagram.com/dolls_in_trees
Etsy: etsy.com/shop/dollsintrees

Courtesy of Emma Hampton Walshe. All rights reserved.