Emily Ferretti: Line Dancing

Emily Ferretti exhibits a new series of vibrant psychological landscape paintings in her first solo exhibition at an art fair.

Words: Louise Martin-Chew

THIS YEAR, EMILY FERRETTI showed her Shifting Landscapes Monotypes for the Ramsay Art Prize at the Art Gallery of South Australia. This series of works on paper represents a groundswell of change – but may also describe her art practice, family situation and the many opportunities this past year has generated. For Sydney Contemporary 2019, the artist has produced a new series of psychological and emotional “shifting” land- scape paintings that are vibrant, patterned and slippery in their enigmatic trajectory. They will be shown at the Sophie Gannon Gallery stand.

This new work for the fair emerged from the process of making monotypes in 2018. “Monotypes are made by painting directly onto a copper plate with oil and etching ink, then putting it through a press onto paper to get a one-off impression,” Ferretti describes. “This very direct process really freed up my hand and has shifted my paintings into a more energetic place. As a result, the landscape motifs are now more direct and I think the scalloping line in this new work becomes like the hand moving, the gesture mimicking nature: leaves, a splash in the water, a smoke plume.” The monotype process also transformed her palette and warm colours (reds, oranges and pinks) begin to emerge in her work.

“When I go back in time, the blue-green palette in my work was very distinct,” notes the artist. “I hadn’t bought a red tube of paint for over a decade! The monotypes meant experimenting with colour and how it could be pressed onto the paper – they got me out of my routine. Red is a very loaded colour. It was too intense for me before – but now I like its fieriness and heat.” Paintings like Shifting Shore (2019) and Bent Trunks (2019) are electric in their dynamic movement and colourful rhythms, with titles offering clues to the elements that have informed them.

While Ferretti’s work appears initially abstract, she sees these paintings as landscapes, often incorporating a still life scene or a through-the-window-style vista. “They are not just standing within a vast land- scape. They look from the inside out – or the opposite. Sometimes I’m honing into something on the ground as well, little details like leaves and autumnal motifs. The landscape is a loose idea and not something that I want an audience to take completely literally. I want there to be an emotion behind the painting – and an openness. The audience can bring what they want to it.”

Ferretti’s landscapes are contained in a way that emerges, she believes, from her rural childhood. She grew up in the country and, while she was happy, she found the isolation oppressive as she got older. “I love the landscape so much but when I am in it, after only a few days, I feel the isolation. It is such an important part of my outlook, yet there is ambivalence.”

This is Ferretti’s first solo exhibition at an art fair and follows a solo show at Melbourne’s Bus Projects in April and May. The Ramsay was the first time a body of her work has been shown at a state institution and she has also participated in other group exhibitions this year. Her productivity is compelling when she reveals that she is the mother of two-year-old twins. She acknowledges that motherhood “has been demanding. I am planning a lot more. It’s working.”

Other CV highlights include the Australia Council New York Residency in 2015 and a Gertrude Street Residency in Melbourne 2011–12, both of which continue to inform her milieu. Gallerist Sophie Gannon’s view is that, “Emily is a fantastic contemporary painter. Collectors always love good painting – and there is a real movement, like a vibration, to this work that I think will resonate with the Sydney Contemporary audience.”

This article was originally published in Sydney Contemporary Special Issue Art Collector, 2019. 

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