While the convergence of technology and art can democratize and build collaborative creativity, as we saw earlier this week in Nancy Baker Cahill: Her Art Living in Your World, art will always be an expression born out of our humanity.

As seen in our August issue of WS Magazine, Emma Franks brings the power of colour and light. She reminds us that creativity is found in the people and world that surrounds us.

The women in Emma Franks’ paintings are introspective, ethereal, “alone but self-contained, possessors of a quiet power.” Through hues of foggy colour and light, they command the viewer’s attention. These paintings are a window into Emma’s world, where one can find peace and calm.

“When I was a child, I would mix leaves and mud in the garden, believing I was making magical potions.” When she turned sixteen, she first mixed paint and put it to a canvas: magic!

Painting entitled: They Said Goodbye

“I really don’t know why I chose painting, not sculpture or printmaking, I just fell in love with the medium.”

Emma had found her voice. Now for what to say:

“I was brought up in a very traditional Jewish home with very traditional values. This was at odds with how I think and feel about the world. I am a feminist, and it was difficult for me to be continually pushed into being a woman whose only purpose was servitude. This made me want to paint powerful women who had a presence.”

Emma’s latest series, for instance, depicts asylum women, silenced and locked away, “stripped of their dignity and voice” because they were different. Basing herself on portraits of actual patients of the Surrey County Asylum between 1848 and 1858, she casts a different light, a female one, on these nonconformist women and challenges society’s norms of behavior.

Photo credit of Emma at work: Kate Kuzminova

Emma first realized art had power, when, at eighteen, “I went to see a retrospective of Egon Shiele and a painting by Mark Rothko.  When I saw both of their artworks, I understood why one makes art.

I realized that art was not there to be decorative; it was there to express something deep inside of us, to stir emotion and feel that anything is possible.”

Emma says art changed her life:

“It frightens me to think of how my life would be if I didn’t have art. It gives inspiration, hope, love, wonder and joy.”

Art also has the power to heal. As an art therapist, Emma believes art can make people feel better, and help them express deep, perhaps painful emotions, just like music and writing.

Emma, herself, thinks and feels deeply:

“I am passionate about many things: Art, the environment, nature, music, and world peace. What makes me sad is witnessing human destruction of the natural world, the UK government drastically reducing the arts in education, and people’s intolerance and lack of compassion for each other.”

If she could define happiness, it would be world peace. Perhaps that is why her paintings are an effort “to recapture the feeling I have when I look and experience a stunning view, utter calm and inner peace.”

She painted imaginary landscapes first, then when she became pregnant, she started painting imaginary women – loosely autobiographical:

“A figure appeared. The figure was small and has grown larger and larger until it now dominates the canvas. I am a feminist and a woman so it also makes complete sense to paint women. I am celebrating women.

As for the ethereal and dreamlike quality of the paintings, I am definitely drawn to themes of reverie, isolation and escapism. The women are thinking and feeling many things, just as we do. I also want people to project their own feelings onto the women. I think that’s part of their power.”

Emma’s art is an invitation into her world, a calmer, kinder one than ours. She offers an escape to peace “in salmon pink and emerald green, and the color of a cloudless sky.”

Painting entitled: Melancholy

Yara Zgheib

Author Yara Zgheib

Yara is a writer, policy researcher and analyst, and lover of culture, travel, nature, art. She is the author of The Girls at 17 Swann Street and blogger behind Aristotle at Afternoon Tea. She has written for The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, The Idea List, A Woman’s Paris, and Holiday Magazine.

More posts by Yara Zgheib

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