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A Magazine for Sheffield

Florence Blanchard Sheffield via New York via Montpellier

Sheffield-based artist Florence Blanchard (also known as Ema) started out as a graffiti writer in her hometown of Montpellier. She later moved to New York for a ten-year stretch, developing her work, bringing it into gallery spaces and exploring new mediums and modes of expression. These days you can find her pieces all over the world, from exhibition spaces to street corners and in many different forms, the most recognisable being her Dropman wheat pastes, which you might’ve seen dotted about town.

Tell us about your background. What brought you over to the UK and what first inspired you to become an artist?

I am a painter, screenprinter and muralist hailing from the south of France via the US. I started as a graffiti writer in the early 90s and moved to New York in 2001, where I began showing my work in galleries. After ten thoroughly enjoyable years in America I decided to come back to this side of the Atlantic and found that the UK was a good compromise between France and America.

How do you describe what you do to people who have never seen your work?

My work mixes figurative elements with abstract scenes, inspired by old comic books and science fiction.

How do you spend your days?

My days are mainly spent either emailing, experimenting, painting or travelling.

What’s your working process when starting a new piece?

I usually get my best ideas when I am unable to achieve them – for example, when I’m travelling or when I’m working on other projects – so I try to take notes to refer to later. I collect reference images from books and online and only start painting when I know what I am going to do.

What themes and recurring characters do you find yourself returning to?

I am very intrigued by what persists in this world as opposed to what is condemned to oblivion, so most of my work revolves around the capturing of thoughts, transient moments and dreams.

You have a real mixture of artistic styles. How has your approach evolved over the years?

From working in the streets as a graffiti writer, I would say I’ve kept the bold shapes and limited colour palette to an extent, only now I also enjoy creating works on paper, canvas and building 3D installations too. It’s all part of the same thing. It’s just a case of finding different outlets to suit the temperament of the work.

Which other artists and art forms inspire you to create?

I take inspiration from music, vintage illustration and also photography. I recently felt very touched by the work of street photographer Vivian Maier, which was only discovered by chance after she passed away a few years ago. She was born in France, worked as a nanny in the US, travelled a lot on her own and took over 100,000 amazing photos that she never showed to anyone. Her work mainly captures brief instants of street life in New York and Chicago in the 50s and 60s. Such an incredible story.

Which piece of work are you most proud of?

All my pieces share their lot of good and bad, so I don’t really have a favourite.

What have you got in the pipeline at the moment?

I am very excited about my next exhibition in Sheffield in collaboration with Jonathan Wilkinson at B&B Gallery (95B Mary Street) in October.

Good advice you wish you’d been told earlier?

Complementary colours produce the most contrast when placed next to each other.

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