Emily Motto on her New Contemporaries residency at Bluecoat

In 2019 we welcomed artist Emily Motto to Bluecoat for a year long residency as the New Contemporaries Bursary Studio Artist. Here Emily talks to us about her work, how it feels to have been selected for the bursary, and what makes Liverpool such a great city for artists.

Date posted

16 December 2019
New Contemporaries has supported UK arts graduates since 1949 and Emily was selected for their annual open submission exhibition in 2014 at Liverpool’s World Museum.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your practice so far as an artist? What kind of work are you interested in making?

Since being here at the Bluecoat I have been working on The Obstacle Course at Contemporary Sculpture Fulmer, a sculptural drawing that played with the movements of visitors passing through The Potting Shed.

I love to work between sculpture, installation and drawing, and The Obstacle Course stemmed from questions of how drawings can exist in physical space and be created collectively with marks, lines, and shapes dependent on the bodies making them. I’m really interested in creating spaces that play between different modes of attention and focus – particularly through the tactility and instabilities of the materials I use, and ways that parts can be pieced together through space. I’ve also been working a lot with very thin newsprint recently and structuring it with different cements and plasters to create forms for a series called The Waiting Line.

Emily Motto, The Obstacle Course.

2. What are the themes behind your work?

I love to play with structure and at the moment am trying to make quite fragile marks and gestures stand. Materially-led, many aspects of my work are defined by coping with unanticipated elements whilst making, and shapes that emerge from my experiments. Recently, whilst working with more fragile surfaces I’ve been thinking a lot about repairs and facades, and I’ve been enjoying piecing together the off-cuts. I really like experimenting with different ideas of fronts and have been working in a collage-like way with sculptural elements to experiment with constructing compositions for varying view points. Through them I’ve been thinking about ideas of balance and fullness – and about possibilities for/of elements to be flat-packable and reused.

3. What does it mean to you and your practice as an artist to be selected for the New Contemporaries Studio Bursary?

It’s amazing to have this space to experiment, and be able to focus on developing new workfor a whole year. It’s been really special to be able to have so much time in the studio. I was in New Contemporaries in 2014, and I’m so grateful for their support five years on. Especially now, with more of an understanding of the practicalities of continuing my art practice in the world, the support of a studio is incredibly valuable. It’s also been exciting moving to a new city, and seeing what others are making up here too. I actually first came to Liverpool when exhibiting with New Contemporaries in the Biennial, and it’s great to be back and spend more time here. It really feels like there’s a lot more time and space for artists in Liverpool compared with other places I’ve lived.

4. What are your ambitions for your work in the future? What do you have planned after your Bluecoat residency?

I’ve been refining some cement and paper compositions and shapes recently, continuing from the Intervals I made at NLS, and I want to continue focusing on the feelings that come through their forms. In the future I’d also like to experiment with using more clay in my work. Working with natural pigments in the cements I’ve been using, I’ve been thinking a lot about the sustainability and endurance of the stuff involved – especially when making work so site-specifically, and often temporarily, for different spaces like I have been. I heard an incredible talk by Peter Campbell at the BSR clay, terracotta and brick research day recently about possibilities of magnetic dating ceramic firings. I love experimenting with different properties of materials, and I like the idea of being able to play with/ make elements that have a time and place so ingrained in their materiality. I’ve got some plans for a group of shelf-like forms that I’ll be working on next year too, and will be making a new work with CSM for Waterlow Park in Highgate, London. I received the Royal Society of Sculptors Gilbert Bayes Award for 2020, so am looking forward to developing my work alongside the other artists in our cohort throughout the year.

Emily Motto's Bluecoat Studio, photo courtesy of the artist.

5. What advice would you give to others looking to pursue a career as an artist?

Just to know that it’s a juggle! Which I love, as I love doing lots of different things and working on multiple projects at once. I find they can really inspire each other in great ways. Whilst I’m here in Liverpool I’m also working with The Brain Charity leading the art on their new Brain Changer Arts Project supported by Children in Need which has been amazing. I like making things with other people, and often find working within other projects brings a good balance to solo studio time.

6. What do you enjoy most about being an artist in residence at Bluecoat?

Walking through the Bluecoat hub everyday to get to the studio is lovely, everyone is so friendly and it feels like a great community to be a part of. I’m looking forward to hosting a workshop during the Family Weekend coming up in January. Also my studio here is really amazing! I’m able to have all these different sections in the studio at once – a really messy space, a collecting space, a drawing space, and a clean testing space - so I can work on lots of different elements alongside each other.

Emily Motto joined us for a family friendly art workshop on Saturday 25 January as part of our Take P-Art! Family Weekend.

Find out more about Emily Motto's work here: http://www.emilymotto.com

Find out more about New Contemporaries here: https://www.newcontemporaries.org.uk