BBC.co.uk interview with Emma Tooth 2009

'There's nothing more shocking to people than good painting'

Emma Tooth may look elegantly Gothic: "darkly eclectic" as she'd put it, but her art owes more to Rembrandt and Caravaggio than to any of her contemporaries.

Emma's a woman who knows her own mind - and she made it up early.

She knew she wanted to earn her living from the drawing and painting that she loved. Her plan took her to university, but then decanted her into a world without contacts or commissions; "for several years it was quite frightening. I was really floundering".

She'll tell you that even as a student her style had raised eyebrows. "They hated me painting. They wanted me to make videos or do Tracy Emin-type trendy art. There's nothing more rebellious you can do nowadays than traditional fine art". Unrepentant, Emma took her portraits with their dramatic lighting and echoes of old masters to galleries and exhibitions, and gradually began to make her way. "Things are rolling along nicely" she admits - a more than mild understatement, with her work on tour in the UK and in Derby's twin town of Osnabruck, and exhibitors clamouring for more.

Her current exhibition of portraits of ordinary people painted in her own extraordinary manner - some of whom she simply ambushed on the street of Derby - will arrive at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery in the summer of 2010. It will be, in turn, a pretty extraordinary exhibition - mixing her work with that of Joseph Wright. Both will be framed and lit so that you might possibly mistake one for the other - until you spot the inclusion of a mobile phone....

Meanwhile she's starting to plan her next move: a series of portraits of older people. Painting them, she enthuses, will be "so much more exciting than painting younger people". She'll be looking for suitable subjects shortly, so it seems only fair to warn people currently walking innocently about that they are in definite danger of finding themselves depicted in oils on an Emma Tooth canvas. And those canvases are becoming more and more widely recognised. "I don't really rate a lot of what's going on at the moment" reflects our maverick. However the art world now shows every sign of rating her.


 

 

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