Straddling the line between the real and the imaginary, representational and abstract, Emily Filler‘s work evokes a sense of joy and imagination—reminiscent of a childhood spent in the garden. Influenced by her daily walks through the city to her studio, she transforms photographs, textiles and paint into collage-like pieces that feel as if the materials belonged together all along.
Learn more about the Toronto-based artist and her studio process below.
What is your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
My studio space is in an old school, so it has nice big windows and high ceilings. I’ve been in there for about 8 years now. The space I had before had no natural light and much lower ceilings. So being in my current space really changed my work – it got larger, brighter and more experimental.
It is much messier than my apartment, but I don’t like to have everything perfectly organized in the studio. I do a lot of collage work and I find collage works much better when you can see a lot of things at once – so rather than keep everything super tidy I like to have a lot of things lying around. It’s happened many times where a small piece of paper or canvas that I’ve had just sitting on a table (or the floor) for months is the perfect thing to finish off a piece.
But overall I think it’s an inviting space, even with small messes here and there. It’s also in a residential neighbourhood (since it’s in an old school) and on my daily walk there I pass through a lovely park and get to take in some beautiful front yard gardens in the summer which is really nice.
What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
I like to really take my time in the morning – have coffee, do some yoga, answer emails, and I typically only get to the studio after lunch. I like to have a big lunch so that I don’t have to take many breaks once I get there and get into it.
Everyday I have a certain goal in mind of what I’d like to accomplish. Even if you don’t always manage to get it all done I find it’s helpful to have an idea of what you’d like to do. So once I arrive I start working right away and just sort of get lost in the work. I am always surprised at how quickly the time goes. I like to listen to podcasts while I work. I used to listen to music but lately I find it a bit distracting. I usually work into the evening—I find I do my best work in the late afternoon / early evening. I am not a morning person, ha! I always clean all my brushes and sweep before I leave so that everything will be nice when I arrive the next day.
Where do you acquire all of your different collage materials?
I make most of my collage materials. My father has a very lovely garden with a lot of different types of flowers in it. In the summers when I go to visit him he lets me pick a bunch of flowers to make bouquets and then we photograph them. I take these photographs to a printmaker I work with and then we make them into silkscreens which I cut up and use as collage pieces. It’s a pretty extensive process but it’s also really fun to see how the flowers make their way from my father’s garden and into my paintings. Every once in a while I will find beautiful old wrapping papers or images from old books or catalogues but most of the actual collage pieces come from this process I described.
How has your work evolved over the years?
I have used floral imagery for many years now, maybe like 16 years, but my work has evolved a great deal. The collage element is one thing that was added about 6 or so years ago. Before that I liked to use certain photo-transfer methods and before that I just painted and occasionally added some paper to the work.
I went to a school where we weren’t so much formally trained in how to use materials but rather encouraged to look at things and experiment. So a lot of the methods I use evolved through my own experiments. I would say though that from each series I’ve made over the years I carry all the small things I have learned so that my current work is in a sense an accumulation of many different elements and techniques.
What do you hope viewers see in your work?
I like for people to see whatever they want. Even I see different things in a piece if I look at it from year to year. Overall I hope that my work makes people feel good. Often people will tell me my work makes them happy which, to me, is the nicest compliment. The world can sometimes be a bit bleak or challenging, so it makes me feel good if I can brighten things up a bit and spread a little joy.