Emmie van Biervliet: Return to Havana 1st - 29th November

An exhibition of new paintings from Emmie's recent travels in Cuba



From her first solo exhibition in an abandoned church back in 2005, Emmie van Biervliet has carved a niche for herself as a full-time artist, combined with the periodic travel that influences her work

A recently graduated Emmie van Biervliet didn’t realise it at the time, but her first visit to Cuba in 2005 was a pivotal moment in her career. ‘After seeing the sights and drinking one too many mojitos I came home with memories and colours fixed in my mind of a particularly unique land. I had my first solo show in an abandoned church and decided that life as an artist might be a viable option.’
Emmie has now successfully carved out a niche for herself, combining periodic travel and exploration with creating and exhibiting art inspired by her journeys. 
Her new paintings explore the ever evolving landscapes of Cuba, following a recent return visit – the crumbling grandeur of palatial town houses and mansions, combined with the creative, passionate spirit of the local people. Her artwork is a document of her experiences and memories, almost like a visual diary.
'Going back to Cuba after eight years I wondered what would the art scene be looking like,' she explains. 'How much would Havana have changed since I was there?' How would this land of dreams and nightmares be now?'
Emmie found that less restoration had been carried out than she had anticipated. The romance of crumbling buildings seems ideal for painting, but the reality for permanent residents is a very different story. 'It’s an almost daily occurrence that a building tumbles down particularly in heavy rain, many are propped up by some sort of scaffolding such as a bit of door or fence and there still frequent power cuts.'
Aside from this, working in Cuba in high summer can also be a challenge; for a start the heat made working in the middle of the day impossible. ‘I had to start at seven am, not when I’m normally my most creative’, Emmie laughs. ‘But it’s a time when the streets are at their quietest. Havana is amazingly friendly, so often it’s easy to get distracted by chatting to the locals!’
Emmie could not be sure of getting hold of art materials whilst she was there so packed as much as she could carry.
'I was prepared with as many art materials as I thought I might need, unsure of what if anything I would be able to get once in Cuba... I trotted through the airport with the cumbersome, heavy boards under my arm and wondered whether austerity mode, Cuban style, might be the way forward. How far do restrictions lead to a greater creative output?'
Despite all of this, Emmie has risen to the challenges. By using mixed media, found objects, even bits of plastic toy and coffee stains, she builds up a sensory picture of a place, despite any issues that may crop up whilst being away from home and the studio. The resulting new paintings are alive with Cuban charm, the lace-like frame work of decaying buildings, contrasting with mysterious tiny figures appearing in doorways or windows. Emmie's new paintings will be on show at Sarah Wiseman Gallery, 1-29th November, 2014

You can also read an interview with Emmie on the new collection of work on the Artist's and Illustrators magazine website. Click here!

Click here to see the full collection by Emmie van Biervliet


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