Emma Willemse

Emma Willemse is a conceptual artist and art educator living and working in Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape. Her art-making practice deals with issues of displacement, place-making, and sense of place. Her artworks are technically varied, and include sculptural installations, printmaking, artist’s books, painting, and drawing.

Emma has exhibited extensively in South Africa, Africa and abroad, and her works have been included in the Nando’s Collection, the Spier Collection, and the South African Embassy in Beijing. Her award-winning artist’s books installation, called 101 ways to long for a home, have been exhibited in diverse configurations in Florence, Dakar, Johannesburg, Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Paris, and London.

During the lockdown in 2020, Emma spear-headed a community collaboration project with a youth group in her hometown, together creating The Stone Circle Project, an outdoor public sculpture installation. This experience has since lead to collaborative ventures with various other artists and communities.

Emma holds a Master’s degree in Visual Arts from the University of South Africa and qualifications in psychology and librarianship.




 “Art is a way of survival”

Yoko Ono

Moving on from my interest in the concept of displacement, I have embarked on a salvaging expedition. The works for the MESH exhibition deal with collected remnants of urban decay - shards of paint collected from a peeling wall, or old filing cabinets found in thrift stores. My expedition extends further into the retrieval of my previous creations, such as fragments of drawings, snippets of found images, and linocut prints. These materials are altered and converted into a series of playful three-dimensional suspended installations, monotype prints, and digital collages.

My sense is that the reclaiming of the remains of a traumatic experience and its transformation into an artwork can cause a parallel alchemy in the psyche. It is a kind of self-rescue that materializes with intense focus and submersion in the task at hand. In this constant, never-ending pursuit, I find the support of a network of trusted, like-minded allies is a safety-net for enabling creative freedom.

Nationality: South African