This collection, recently on display at The Peckham Pelican in London, is a culmination of the development of Emma’s personal practice over the last year informed by her work as a professional Risograph printer at London’s Hato Press. The limited edition prints are available to purchase directly from the artist on this website.

Emma uses a combination of grid systems and rules to form her work, compiling simple geometric shapes and then adding and subtracting them to construct often complex figures and forms. Harmony is created in the compositions by placing the shapes in pleasing, congruous positions, but this set of rules can also “break” the image, creating moments of discord and focus. 

The work is led by process. Just as the figures are contorted to fit within the confines of their rectangular canvases, the restrictions of the digital and print processes provide their own opportunities for problem-solving. Emma begins by sketching the subject in a multitude of different poses, selecting the most interesting drawings to develop further. She then works extensively on the compositions in Adobe Illustrator, making full use of the vector-led system to position each component as precisely as possible. She approaches this stage like a puzzle: if the initial sketch doesn’t conform to the limitations of the grid, the figure is altered to fit.

The colour palette is equally as important to the work. It carries its own restrictions in its limited nature, creating a sense of immediacy and presence. Due to the spot colour process of Risograph printing only a set number of standard colours are available and as a result these are usually immediately recognisable. However, through careful layering of different intensities of inks, Emma achieves her own colours within these confines.

Each print invites the viewer to extrapolate meaning from the arrangement of forms. The figures may be recognised to stretch, curl and intertwine in their restricted space, to evoke movement or emotion. Clues to identity, gender or sexuality are mostly avoided by refining the form down to primitive shapes. The bright colour palette and an underlying theme of closeness and touch prevent the possibility for the strict rules and grid systems to be oppressive or negative: the subjects sit within a confined space, but it is the artist’s intention to evoke feelings of warmth and intimacy through the figures’ poses and interactions.

Linework for “Pose” showing its balanced geometrical construction. The top half of the image is made up of two centrally mirrored circles, the radius for each being the width of the composition

© Emma Jane Semmens 2021
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