LA and London-based British artist Emma Neuberg is a painter and installation artist. She is best known for her abstract, gestural paintings that have been likened to American artists, Joan Mitchell and Joan Snyder. Her work radiates an effervescent, super-flat aura that captures a sense of the geographies and cultural environments in which she works. Neuberg uses an unique painting process that she developed whilst a doctoral candidate in Textiles at the Royal College of Art in the late 1990s.
Neuberg’s most recent solo show, Emma Neuberg: Memory of Colour, took place at The Forge, Craft Central UK, in East London in early 2019. Curated by Helen Kemp (Somerset House), the gallery presented an immense, site-specific installation of her most famous work to date, Drape, measuring 13 x 6 x 68 feet (4m x 2m x 21m) set alongside large pastels and oil paintings dating 2014 – 19. Shown together for the first time, the works communicated a searing, luminescent glow and radiant statement of intent in the steely blue shades of the former Victorian ship-builder’s yard.
Saff Williams, curator at Studio 7 Projects, host to Frieze Academy London, wrote of Neuberg’s solo show, Drapes, at Aldgate Tower, East London, in 2018:
“Drapes is an immersive forest of twenty fabric folds patterned with brightly bold and textured foliage, bringing the outside world in. Totems to the natural world, this installation subtly breathes in the space as the geometric artworks softly flutter in the breeze and move the viewer’s eye from the artworks’ surface to their abstracted depths.”
Neuberg describes her paintings as activating works. They represent a cognitive, gestural process that culminates in color-rich, unprimed canvases that emit a powdery glow with blended color and mesmeric spacial effects. The scale and dynamic in her work are attributed to her formative training in Sculpture and European Art History and a childhood spent in Athens (Greece), Cognac (France) and London (UK). Her teenage years were spent visiting family friends’ Naum Gabo, John Craxton and Ben Nicholson exhibitions.
A relationship between abuse and imaginative escape underlie her creative impetus, drive and vision. The meta-narrative in her work addresses the thwarted voice in society and focuses on the mainstream, impeded voice of those caught in oppressive and abusive cultures. Neuberg’s themes include the consequential effects of obstructed access, opportunities and existence and the ensuing vicious, cultural circles. She reveals and exposes the mute, suppressed spaces where cultural obstruction compounds exclusion, exploitation, ambivalence, assumption, projection, assault, dismissal, denial, invisibility and the physical and mental health consequences of these.
Neuberg uses color, form and spontaneous mark-making to describe these states. She paints, prints and soaks cotton, linen and polyester canvases to stretch, suspend, reflect, move and glow.
Her first group show was the Great British touring exhibition, Artists as Rugmakers (1994), with Ben Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, Tim Nicholson, Louisa Creed, Kaffe Fassett, Roderic Hill and EQ Nicholson. The exhibition heralded the synthesis of British Modernism with textiles in the first show of its kind. During the 1980s, Tim Nicholson was a stepfather figure to the artist and supported her young, artistic development.
From 1995, Neuberg studied at the the Royal College of Art, London, and in 2000 gained a studio-based PhD in Sustainable Printing Methods for Synthetic Materials. There she worked alongside Ron Arad, Julien MacDonald, Alice Temperley and Vivienne Westwood and has worked with colour and print technologies at the forefront of her creative process ever since.
Neuberg enjoys several awards from TechTextil (Germany), Textile Institute (UK) and National Endowment for the Science Technology and Arts (UK) for her material innovations with color and materials. Her studio features as the backdrop for the HBO/BBC series Civilizations (a remake of Kenneth Clarke’s BBC TV original) for its color section presented by Philip Ball, British author of Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Colour.
Since 2000, she has been a visiting lecturer at University of the Arts London, the Royal College of Art, the Russell Group and the V&A Museum (London) delivering Critical Studies courses and Studio courses that translate exhibits into contemporary artefacts through digital tools, archival resources and imagination.
In 2012, she was selected for the Young Masters’ Art Prize UK and, in 2016, was named one of Britain’s New Fabric Designers by Becky Sunshine for The Observer Magazine and The Guardian online. Neuberg is the Founding Director of Textiles Hub London, an international collective of artists, craftspeople and designers who work with textiles. In 2000, she was awarded a Sir Winston Churchill Lifetime Fellowship (UK) for her contribution to Industrial Print Technologies for the Arts.
In 2019 – 20, she is an honored recipient of an Arts Council UK DYCP Award for Painting into Textiles, a project affording the opportunity to develop techniques and experimentation for large-scale installations.
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Photo credit: C. Schek