When Toronto-based artist Emma Nishimura was 14 years old she visited Nova Scotia where she met a woman named Elfie and had a chance to tour her studio. Emma recalls, “From that moment on I dreamt about what my studio would look like and became fascinated with the idea of being an artist.” Although Emma did not decide to pursue an artistic career until she was well into her university years she says, “There came a time when I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” Making and appreciating art has always been part of Emma’s life and she credits her family with fostering an appreciation for the arts throughout her childhood.
Emma’s primary medium is printmaking – what she’s been trained in and where most of her work begins. She says, “Etching is my favourite form of printmaking – it’s a medium with endless possibilities and where the process of making the art is just as important as the final product. I also love working with and printing on Japanese paper. The combination of these two mediums has great potential for experimentation with my art and over the years it has become the way in which I explore and articulate my feelings and ideas.”
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After graduating from the University of Guelph with a B.A. in studio art and psychology, she completed an M.F.A. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the U.S. Now back in Toronto, she is a sessional instructor at the Ontario College of Art and Design University while creating and exhibiting her own work.
Emma’s great inspiration for her art comes from family stories and the memories, photographs and objects associated with these tales. She explains, “For the past number of years my work has sought to address and investigate the broad themes of memory and loss as well as specific family stories. Growing up I heard the complicated stories of my paternal grandparents’ lives. Their childhoods were spent in Japan and Canada and they were forever haunted by their internment during World War II and their years after that time. These stories have stayed with me and have been the focus of much of the work I’ve made over the last six years.”
Emma’s art is wonderfully detailed and meticulously executed. She is planning for an artistic future full of art-making, exhibiting and teaching. She describes her approach, “Making work and researching the stories behind the work has become an essential part of who I am and how I see and understand the world. Exhibiting and sharing my work with others is also very important to me as it opens up a space for dialogue. Teaching has always been central to my world and plays a key role in my life in the arts.”
As a young Canadian artist – she is 32 – Emma faces challenges typical of the profession. She says, “One of my main challenges is finding a balance between my larger life and working all the time – navigating different teaching roles, studio time, grant writing and putting exhibition proposals together – means that I’m constantly juggling different work obligations. The other challenge is making enough money, while still creating the work that I want to make (some installations and certain pieces aren’t very sellable). I imagine these issues will continue throughout my career but, as I said before, I can’t imagine doing anything else!”
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– Miria Ioannou
Photos courtesy Emma Nishimura
See more of Emma Nishimura’s work on her website.
Current and upcoming exhibits
Group exhibition in Cleveland: Revive & Renew: Contemporary Artists & Eastern Papers, Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Educational Foundation, Cleveland, OH. August 1 – September 20, 2014.
World of Threads Festival 2014: Group show – The Red and the Black, The Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Park Community & Cultural Centre, Oakville, ON. November 1 – 30, 2014
Solo show – Locating Memory, Corridor Galleries, Queen Elizabeth Park Community & Cultural Centre, Oakville, ON. November 1 – 30, 2014
This article can be found in What’s Here, in the section Portraits.