We are beyond thrilled to introduce Emi Avora - a colorful visual artist currently residing in Singapore. Her work is inspired by the exotic nature she is surrounded by. She is a mother of two.
Emi, you were born in Greece, studied and lived in the UK and you are now located in Singapore. Can you tell us a little more about your background and journey into art?
I was lucky to have a father who was a painter and I was surrounded by art from birth. My father had a studio at home, and although that was not his main profession, it is what he loved and still loves to do most. So you could say art was always a part of my life. Growing up in that environment, I naturally got influenced, and I cultivated that influence through studying. Again through a combination of luck and a lot of work, I ended up studying in Oxford and London where I spent half of my life.
Your work is full of color and exotic vibes. How did your art practice and style change when moving to Singapore?
The relocation to Asia is quite recent, but it has been a real inspiration for my current practice. My work has always been maximalist, but the move to the tropics fuelled my compositions and my subject matter with new motifs and very intense colour. Essentially my images derive from what I see and observe, but it gets exaggerated and fictionalised during the process of painting.
You have a very impressive resume when it comes to solo exhibits and group shows! What was your favourite and the most significant one?
My work got selected through an open call for a show at the Whitechapel Gallery, London just a year after I graduated which was very important for me as my work got noticed by a lot of people and therefore created more opportunities. A lot of time has passed since then and a lot of things have changed but I still remember how excited I was to show my work in that gallery as it is still one of my favourites.
You are a mummy of two. Do you involve your children in your creative process?
The children are still quite young (5 and 3) so I don't really bring them to the studio for too long yet as it's quite far from where I live. We do a lot of art activities at home, and during the circuit breaker, we also had painting sessions where we were all painting together. I enjoyed those and I feel as the kids are getting older, I will be able to do more work at home where they can be more involved in what I do. I feel it's becoming more important for me that the children see what I am doing daily.
You had to take a break from painting during your second pregnancy and you focused on drawing. How did it feel to step pack for a while?
It was busy with two small babies, so I had to put my focus on them, which felt a bit upsetting at the time, however, taking a step back from the studio was important for my work. The experiments on paper I made during that period, although not typically finished, showed me a way towards my current practice. Also, because I knew that they were not destined to be shown, I really enjoyed making them without any constraints and baggage which has been liberating and eventually beneficial. I would recommend an occasional step back from the usual practice to all artists regardless of having children or not.
How did you feel about motherhood in the past and how do you feel about it now?
Although things are slowly changing, the art world is certainly not very forgiving to mother/artists. I knew I wanted to be a mother but the lifestyle (having to have multiple jobs in order to support the practice) as well as the unforgiving timings of private views, art fairs, socializing that goes alongside the art world certainly made me delay the decision to have children. It was in a way pushed to one side, I would not really allow it to take over.
Often the understanding was that once you had children you would stop practicing. I feel there is more support and awareness for mother artists nowadays but it is still a very hard thing to juggle. It is almost impossible at times to keep multiple jobs and studio practice on top of motherhood and an artist/mother needs to be very inventive in the way she can approach making as well as the art world.
On the other hand, motherhood is a huge chapter that feeds into the work and I feel blessed I am getting to experience it. Practicalities should not stop anyone from making what they love and pursue their practice. And I often say to other mother/artists, it is ok to also take a break. If one plans to continue being an artist for a lifetime then a few months or years off is just a very small amount of time.
What is the message behind your art?
Rather than conveying a direct message about something I would say I see my paintings as portals to a space of dreaming for the viewer where paradoxical things happen, where there's a sense of euphoria but also of anxiety at times, where clishes and surprises collide, where things are simultaneously disorienting and dazzling. I use my every day to create a universe that invites the viewer to a visual journey into a fictional parallel world.
What does your art do for you?
It keeps me wondering, keeps me alert, keeps me observant, keeps me dreaming.
What are your plans for the future (career, parenting etc.)?
I feel privileged that this particular time of my life I can dedicate more time to my work. It needs to fit into the kids' routine but I think that urgency of using the time wisely is not necessarily bad. I have a new body of work made since my relocation and I am hoping to continue showing it and exposing it while looking into further developing my practice. My work is included in a few publications this autumn which is very exciting!
What advice do you have for fellow art mums?
From my personal experience, I would urge them not to get crippled by guilt. If they want to take some time off to focus on motherhood then they should embrace that as it's a very special time. If, however, they decide not to take a long break or they have projects that they need to attend to, then they should try to get as much help as possible and do it without guilt. This idea sometimes fuelled by the media that women can focus on everything simultaneously is often confusing and unrealistic.