Emma Hercus

I am Emma Hercus, a multimedia artist whose dream has been to paint naive, semi-abstract figurative artworks in juicy, thick layers of brushy acrylics and oils. Artworks that vibrate with an energy of pattern and colour; celebrate the landscape; the freedom and jaunty personalities of animals—especially bird life—and the stories of people both ancient and modern; as well as providing a magical narrative of whimsical antics, curious exploration and spontaneous, surrealist, nonsensical wonderment.

This stage of my practice started as a vision in 2012, when, after years traveling around the globe, I settled in Plimmerton, a seaside village in Aotearoa New Zealand, north of Wellington.

Initially, I focused on weaving and creating found art pieces, then I joined a studio a short distance away in Paekakariki, which took me into another realm of influence. The members of the space were artists who created paint-based artworks. This motivated me to continue my exploration of paint as a medium and continue to refine my technique and style of painting—inspired by other painters and artworks; stimulated by story books; and by the organic patterns of nature.

My process continues to embrace experimentality and often starts with an unapologetically vibrant layer of paint, which is then built upon so that the initial colour is still tantalizingly visible. Using wide, strongly intentional strokes of the brush that leave a rough texture along with found objects that already have a story to tell (bits of wood, timber, old windows and the like) to push and pull the paint, scratching and scraping it back, I build up works that express pattern, upon pattern, upon pattern—within and outside the confines of confidently rendered, expressive, idealized forms, elements and compositions. I add a sprinkle of humour to my pieces sometimes too.

The common thread throughout my work is that we need to take care of our place and its creatures, to celebrate both those we still have and those which survive only in books and artworks. I also like to create pieces that don’t make sense completely, but make the viewer smile.

The ever changing ocean and the view from my home has served to constantly fascinate and continually develop visual motifs around this—referencing the relationships between nature, day and night, the elements (sun, clouds, rain); giant birds with tiny human riders, ladders, eggs, boats, Mana Island, and the surrounding native bushy wonderland of trees, flowers and ferns. Viewing many of my works brings an introduction to the playful antics of birdlife. The past also functions as a guide to content based on historical figures, some of whom are Ornithologists and adventurers that relate back to my focus on birds. An exploration of more contemporary concepts such as feminism, female aging and body positivity has resulted in additional works that seek to powerfully celebrate these forms. Yay for saggy tits or non-existent ones, I say.

To view my work is to engage and experience a spirited, trippy journey of discovery into a space of positivity, curiosity, vibrance. A magic dream that you don’t want to wake up from. An entrancing expression of celebratory appreciation that exudes energy, and exploration; which seeks to connect to provide a like-minded relationship. To make people smile.