Emma Kidd’s Monsters


Emma Kidd is an Australia artist who was formally educated in photography and printmaking. Kidd travelled extensively before settling into her current French home. Kidd’s business and website Benconservato is a concoction of time she spent in Italy and experimenting in the kitchen with jams at the time, meaning ‘well preserved’ in Italian.

Her recent work involves monsters that can take shape on French text, wooden nesting dolls or ceramics. Kidd’s monsters aren’t the scary kind, in fact, they’re hard to describe. They can be feathered or scaled and express moods ranging from melancholy to mischievous. Their naïve style can either border on abstract or finely detailed and delicately coloured. These unique and elusive little creatures are the product of Kidd’s subconscious and hold as firm favourites in her portfolio.

1) Can you tell us about some of the techniques you employ?

I tend to use mainly paint as the main element of my work, gouache being my favourite type of paint. It can be opaque or transparent. I have done more monoprinting recently too. I like the not-sure-what-will-happen with monoprinting.

2) I notice you refer to photography work as lomography. What is lomography?

Lomography is taking photos with a Lomo made camera, such as the Holga or Diana. Their philosophy is to not think but just shoot. They uses real film, and you are never really sure what it will do to the film. I actually graduated with my main study in photography, but I am not serious enough about it to do perfect, sharp images. I always played with it, so this is my ‘playing with film photography’ outlet.

3) What art or artists have influenced your work?

I like Brett Whiteley, Mandy Ord, Marcel Duchamp, Réné Magritte, Arthur Streeton, Nam June Pik, John Baldessari, Michael Sowa and traditional Japanese and Chinese art.

4) What about the monsters? Where did they come from?

I’ve had a few people ask me about the monsters lately, and where they came from, but I really wasn’t sure how I got there. Then! I realised I had a very strong interest in the illuminated manuscripts and Medieval depictions of animals. Perhaps, they came from there. Who knows who really influences you in this age of everything at your fingertips.

5) Do you find inspiration in the literary or cultural world in general?

Apart from Ern Malley, I did do a series of photographic etchings in 2006 on “The Magic Flute” The Mozart Opera and it’s symbolism of Free Masonry, the tarot etc. I only created 7 pieces at the time, but I feel like I haven’t finished with it. I am a little disenchanted with etching at the moment. Other than that, I am actually not consciously aware of any real direct influence. I read a lot and always have. Something must have leaked in there.

6) Who is Ern Malley?

Ern Malley is a fictive poet created by Harold Stewart and James McAuley in the 1940’s to hoax Max Harris, the editor of Angry Penguins a modern poetry journal. Stewart and McAuley wrote the poems by taking lines from all types of books such as a rhyming dictionary, Shakespeare and dry military manuals, creating the surrealist style that was so popular at the time. Ern was born! They were trying to prove that he wouldn’t know the difference between good and bad poetry. Stewart and McAuley were all for a more traditional style of poetry, hoping to create a purely Australian style.

7) Your work is extraordinarily versatile but you seem to have a strong vision when it comes to your monsters and character work. Why do you think this is? What are you trying to express through your monsters?

I am sure they started as a form of frustration with being an artist. I like animals and seem to be pretty bad at focussing on the surroundings of my characters, so I just focus on them. They express, possibly my frame of mind at the time of creating. The last monoprints I did all the monsters were dancing.

8) You seem to have created almost a catalogue of monster characters, do you have a story for these or is there anything you can tell us about them?

Sometimes I name them, sometimes other people do for me and it sticks (I have one I called “he looks like my Father”, as someone said that to me, long name I know). I can’t really tell you anymore than that.
Once my mother asked me if I thought of anything or was listening to anything in particular when I was drawing the pieces that are the most successful, and I honestly can’t say. Sometimes I am aware that I have just been lost in time while creating. So to go back to your question, perhaps, just perhaps, the monsters started as a form of rebellion (perhaps a too strong a word) to being a fine artist. So they just kind of spewed out of me. Now, I tend to think about them a little more. I got told they seemed melancholy. Perhaps that is just me. I am not a good fine artist, I believe the monsters and myself have found each other.

9) Why do you place some of your work on pages of text?

I like the texture of the paper with something already on it. I sometimes get daunted by large pieces of blank paper, so I am sure that is why I like the book pages.

10) What is you favourite medium, or the one that best expresses your style?

I actually am thinking the monoprinting is really the medium that expresses my style the most.
Kidd currently works to her own schedule and also welcomes commissioned pieces. She can be found at benconservato.

Lara Cory is a freelance writer and blogger and co-founder of MOTIF Magazine. Classically trained in piano and a degree in Communications, Lara’s main interests are music, books, film and art.