Emma Hack is an Adelaide-based artist working in the unique medium of body paint installation and photography. Exhibiting extensively throughout Australia since 1999, Emma’s astounding artworks have since captured the attention of collectors and art lovers worldwide.
Emma is best known for painting naked human bodies that visually merges with a patterned background wall, producing a chameleon-like camouflage effect. Her technique was developed in the early 2000s and inspired from wallpaper designs by Florence Broadhurst.
The technique got wide exposure in the music video to Gotye's hit Somebody That I Used to Know. Her latest work has also incorporated animals.
Words by Maria Mokina, images are from Emma's collection
When and how did your interest to body art begin?
I started facepainting kids when I was 15, I loved the way the skin could evolve. I studied makeup at the Peacock Academy and my teacher said I should extend to the rest of the body, once I started body painting, I was hooked!
Please can you describe a process of the painting: What paint do you use; How many crew people are usually involved; What is the hardest part of the process?
I'm using makeup products mainly cake based, MAC, Kryolan, Mehron. Usually there are my model, my photographic assistant and myself involved - I like to keep it minimal and I create everything that way. When I paint, it takes a lot of time. If the model is unwell or tired, it's hard to mentally pull somebody through the process as it takes so many hours.
Does it tickle your models when you paint them?
Not really, they are usually concentrating on holding the pose.
Usually models have to stay or bend for a long time - are they allowed moving or leaving to have a break?
Yes, we break, but movement can be limiting dependant on the pose.
How much time does it take to paint one body in average?
What was your longest project?
23 hrs – it was Gotye video clip.
What are the most famous projects you have been done? What are your favourite ones?
Gotye video for ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ is my most famous, followed by the sculptural car I did ‘Body Crash’ on YouTube which changed the way people see sculptural body art. My work with Flrorence Broadhursts Wallpapers are iconic and the works with Birds and Owls are my stand out.
When and how did you start working on Wallpaper Collections based on Florence Broadhurst’s iconic wallpaper artworks?
2005 was the first time, I created with the designs. I was looking for a way to create the illusion of camouflage.
How many of them have been done for now? What series is your favourite one and which one was the hardest?
I should count them, but I haven’t, there are so many. I do love the birds, owls in my work, my favourite collection is Utopia, with the bodies turned to the side.
Who did create the concept of Gotye’s music video «Somebody That I Used To Know»?
I was asked to create stop motion body art, I have had many friends in the animation business and had wanted to create in this way for many years, this was a great opportunity to do it on a large scale.
The video is a stop-motion: could you tell a bit more how it has been made? How many hours did it take? Who has chosen the colour palette?
Wally (Gotye) and I chose the artwork based on his fathers design, it was a sentimental choice. The colours were picked to be different in each of the characters ‘worlds’.
I would paint a couple of dots, move out, the photo was captured and then I would repeat. The process was extrememly hard, colours were mixed and matched as it progressed over the 23 hours on set.
What was it like painting Gotye and Kimbra? Were they patient?
Absolutely, they are both divine people and totally into it.
This video has Grammy Award, a lot of nominations and more than 600.000.000 views on YouTube at the moment. Obviously, this is a huge success. Being one of the key persons of the music video, did this affect your life after?
It helps people understand what I do more, prior to this, people thought it was all photoshop, which I barely use.
What other projects you are doing apart of body art installations?
I have started working with nudes and embroidery, also some collage work, I am enjoying the process of creating over a few weeks, rather than a few hours…
What are you working on at the moment?
I collage work of one of my most well know works, ‘Red Bird’, its taken 4 weeks so far, with at least one left to go!
Do you have a favourite quote?
‘Plan you work, work your plan’ My dad taught me that, it slows me down which I need.
What is your favourite quality in a person?
If you could be anywhere else right now where would you be?
Anywhere by the sea.
What was the last movie you watched and loved?
The Grand Budapest Hotel.
What makes you happy?
Stopping to smell the roses.