We’re particularly fond of Emilia Olsen’s paintings of plants, which feature soft colors and thick layers of oil. “I’m really inspired by layering,” Emilia told The World’s Best Ever, “thick paint application, patterns, repetition—actions that evoke tedium. I’ll start a painting by using a blank canvas as a palette for another work, and build on top of the palette canvas until I feel ready to begin the actual painting.” The South Africa-born New York-based artist is also inspired by peers like Jonas Wood, Yayoi Kusama, Allison Schulnik, Daniel Heidkamp, Ellen Altfest, Wes Lang and Mat Brinkman.
Emilia started painting plants as an escape from her previous work, and as part of her obsession with gardening and houseplants. “I paint from life, photos, and from my imagination,” she says. “It’s not necessary for my plants to be fully representative of the real thing, but succulents can be so strange that it’s nice to get ideas from them. It’s also important to me that the painting plants keep a sense of reality, in terms of how they grow, how leaves reach towards light, or hang. It gives the more unrealistic parts of my paintings something to grip on to.”
The “unrealistic parts” include the addition of eyes, which keep in line with her previous, more whimsical work. “I like thinking of plants as having their own personalities and I like the idea of them bearing silent witness to our lives,” Emilia says. “The eyes are playful, shifty, judgmental, creepy, and perhaps even anxiety-inducing. They remind me of the kind of silly things I would worry about as a child—that my toys would feel neglected if I didn’t play with them enough, or that they were judging my embarrassing moments.”