KNEWYU: WHAT’S YOUR NAME, WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
EMILY: My name is Emily Hana Johnson (artist name HANA) and I am an artist working in the field of paper and light installation.
I was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1990, but have lived most of my life in Sydney, Australia (currently completing an artist residency in Amsterdam).
My works are made from a grouping of identical paper units which are based off a deconstructed concertina structure (I used to be really into bookbinding, studied it at Sturt in Bowral but decided I really liked the shape of individual pages) which tesselate and join in different ways to create a large geometric cloud like structure.
The thing I love about these pieces is that they can be really ordered and perfect, or they can be completely chaotic and organic, depending on how I group them. I then project film or animation over the top so that the paper looks as if it is moving, the image is heavily distorted, as are the shadows that the paper creates. Really the paper is merely a tool to manipulate the light projection in the way that I want.
K: WHAT IS SHADOW ART AND HOW DID YOU GET INTO IT?
E: So I was always really more into drawing and painting, and in fact that is what I majored in. However, I realised that the way I draw, the way I see objects and interpret the world, is basically just a break down of light and shadow and the shapes that they make. I am inspired by the way light and shadow can completely change the way we perceive something and emotionally engage with it. So when I started working with paper, I found it extremely interesting as I could use it as a tool to completely change one thing into another. Basically, I manipulate and bend light to create shadow through the three dimensional form of the work.
K: DID YOU STUDY AT COLLEGE/UNI OR DO ANY SHORT COURSES IN THE ART FIELD THAT YOU’RE IN?
E: I actually studied a BA Art Education and COFA (now UNSW Art and Design), and was a high school art teacher for 4 years, however I realised that this is what I really wanted to do and while I would be perfectly happy (and probably a lot more financially secure) as a teacher, I wouldn’t feel totally fulfilled. Being an artist makes me feel like I am on fire haha (in a good way of course!) and so I just had to pursue it.
K: WHAT IS A NORMAL DAY LIKE IN THE LIFE OF EMILY?
E: At the moment a normal day for me goes like this:
I wake up at around 10:30, make myself a cup of tea and sit down at my desk. I will do an hour or so of folding while listening to a podcast or music, and then venture out into Amsterdam, generally to go to an art gallery or to get myself a sandwich which I will eat in my favourite tree in Vondel park (her name is Gladys). Then I will go back home, do some emailing and a bit of writing. Another couple of hours of folding after this and maybe a little painting/filming. I generally stay up past two working most nights as my building is pretty loud. Then two days a week I have a day job which helps me pay my bills, occasionally I will give myself a day off and lie in Amsterdam forrest or catch up with friends.
K: DO YOU HAVE A PLAYLIST TO HELP INSPIRE YOU AS YOU CREATE? WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SONGS ON IT?
E: My taste in music changes day to day but normally either Miles Davies, Biggie Smalls, Wu Tang Clan, D’angelo, Billie Holiday, Estere or The Dwight Twilley Band.
K: WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU USE TO MAKE YOUR ART? WALK US THROUGH THE MAKINGS OF ONE OF YOUR CREATIONS?
E: So my installations always start with a whole lot of folding. I begin by folding hundreds of squares of paper and gluing them in sections, generally one installation takes 900 units (1800 pieces of folded paper). I then go out filming, or begin working on animations which are to be projected on the piece.
When it comes to installing I rig a line across the ceiling for the paper to be hung from and begin working from the wall, attaching the paper from here and making it grow outwards. I generally don’t plan the form of the installation too much, but rather allow it to dictate itself to me.
Once this is done I spend some time projection mapping the sculpture and making sure the projects and imagery work well in the space. The lights are turned off and hey presto! You have an installation.
K: WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE PROJECT TO WORK ON SO FAR?
E: My favourite project so far has to be the one I am currently working on. At the beginning of August I am doing an installation at De School (a popular club in Amsterdam). What I am most excited about in this project is the space I am working with as I am heavily influenced by certain types of architecture. Basically it is an abandoned school which has been turned into a club, and the interiors are just beautiful, not to mention the lighting. With this project I aim to mimic the way that the light shifts in the space throughout a night, and as the space is open 24 hours it will be great to see how the work is influenced by this.
K: WHAT TIPS CAN YOU GIVE TO AN ASPIRING ARTIST?
E: Haha well to be honest I still feel like an aspiring artist myself. But I suppose you just need to give it everything you have and make sacrifices. You need that level of obsession for your work that makes you push it further and further. Also it is so important to ask. Ask people to use their space, or teach you new skills, or to mentor you and try to make as many connections in the industry as you can. Don’t stay in your safe little bubble. Travel, make work every day, and write about that work. Visit galleries, study, basically just do. Don’t be lazy.
Thank you Emily!!