Studio Visits: Emma Hadzi Antich

Painting by day, sketching by night, in a small bedroom studio

Emma Hadzi Antich in front of a work in progress
Emma Hadzi Antich in front of a work in progress (Photo by Andy Campbell)

"The newer work is really focused on the abuse of nature, both human nature and wild nature," says Emma Hadzi Antich, thoughtfully pointing to a small luminous study painting as an example. In it, an oddly proportioned young woman wearing a white togalike shift gestures ambiguously; around her float vital organs (a heart, lungs, an eye) and plants (cut off at their stems, with roots attached). Her studio is a small, light-filled bedroom in a quaint house near Anderson Lane. And though her paintings are often small, Antich's studio is filled with these studies, sketchy drawings, and schoolwork – she's getting her master's in political science from Texas State University. Medieval Orthodox Christian icon paintings are a visual influence hard to dismiss, as Antich's figures are direct and stylized, often appearing on a gold ground. But the similarities end there; tiny men tie up a bearded sage by his own whiskers, and a woman and man have exchanged severed hands and look longingly at each other's stumps.

Austin Chronicle: What's on this wall?

Emma Hadzi Antich: This wall is inspiration – things I want to remember. A lot of my paintings start with phrases or poems or literature. [Grabs a leaf-shaped piece of paper with writing on it, reads:] "You are looking too thinnish to finish this fight" – that will probably be the title of a painting one day.

AC: How many paintings do you usually work on at one time?

EHA: Usually, I have three going on at the same time; right now, I have four. My process is to gesso the boards, and then I use a metal tool to carve into the gesso. And only then do I begin to layer paint up.

AC: Was this process of working on multiple paintings at once something that developed organically? Was is because you needed a break from certain paintings?

EHA: No, it's actually mostly a daylight issue. There are certain things I just can't do by artificial light, such as color-matching skin tones. It's really difficult to do anything like that at night; in fact, it's kind of impossible for me.

AC: So then, do you only paint during the day?

EHA: Well, there are some things I can do by night. I can sketch, and I can carve into the gesso, and gold accenting is easy at night. So I work on several paintings at once because I want to maximize my amount of working time.

AC: I notice you fold your sketches into ninths – what's that about?

EHA: Yes, I do that for many of them. But for this large painting, I've divided the painting up into mirror golden triangles and perfect squares. In doing that, I realized there was a lot in the composition pointing in the upper right corner, and it helped me develop new elements.

More of Emma Hadzi Antich's work can be found at Her upcoming solo show, "Weak Creatures," will open in April at Pump Project's Flex Space, 1109 Shady Lane.

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Emma Hadzi Antich, Austin visual art

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