This article was originally published in the 2019 Summer issue of Invest In Style Magazine.




Your collage work appears both organized and spontaneous, a challenging balance to strike. How do you approach your work? 

I like the spontaneous nature of collage. When working in the studio I find it helpful to keep a lot of materials and imagery around – you never know what the perfect thing will be to complete a piece. None of my work is entirely intentional from point A to point B; I go with whatever is happening in the moment. I like the element of surprise that collage provides, how two colours or patterns look next to each other can be totally unexpected. I think the most important thing is to constantly be observing what looks good and feels interesting.


Isn’t that the creative process to an extent? Having an intention or a direction but being open to how you get there?

Right! Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a painting that I’m really excited about, but as I start working on it, it doesn’t turn out the way I had envisioned. If you let the painting guide you a bit and are open to letting it turn into something else, the results can be unexpected but great. You have to be open to change.



You’re known for your collage work but come from a classical painting background. How did that evolution happen?

Years after I finished my BFA at Queen’s, I heard about something called ‘the 100-day project’ where you made one piece a day for 100 days as part of a series. After being out of art school for some time where there was (some) structure, I liked the idea of having an activity that forced me to be more regimented in my own practice. I made 100 small collages that I ended up calling ‘colour studies’ over the course of a few months. This project got me into collage and the idea of layering pieces and combining different imagery.


Around the same time, I went to NYC and saw an Andy Warhol show and for the first time really appreciated the beauty of his silkscreens on canvas. I went home inspired to try silk-screening. But that project was one of the ones that didn’t turn out how I originally thought it would. I thought the stand-alone silkscreens needed something so I began cutting them up and layering them. Both the addition of silk screening and the collage project got me into a different mindset with my painting and that’s when my work really changed.


What happened when the 100-day project was over?

When the project was over, I really missed it! While I continued making the small collages, I also started to make what could be called ‘collage paintings,’ incorporating all sorts of new elements into my paintings. It’s like I just scaled the project up. Then one day I was having coffee with a friend of mine who is a printmaker and he said, “You know, you’re kind of a collage artist now,” and that really surprised me because I always identified with being a painter. But it’s true, and having a collage mindset has really changed my paintings.



What mediums do you incorporate into your collage work?

I work with cut up pieces of canvas, transfers, silkscreens, photographs, paper, paint, pastels, anything really. The latest material I’ve been working with is cyanotype. It’s a photographic printing process that uses the sun to imprint the silhouettes of objects onto paper. That’s what is so freeing about collage – the variety. And it’s opened my eyes; now when I see a material, even a scrap of paper, I think about how I can incorporate it into my work.


How has the gallery world received your work?

The reception has been great. Interestingly, I think that the collage element in my work is part of what makes my paintings stand out. I like to think that because my work evolved in a very organic way, it’s a very different take on traditional collage.



Tell us about your subject matter, which is predominantly flowers.

Sometimes I think working with floral imagery is a slightly rebellious act. When I was a younger artist, I was given the impression that this was somehow a predictable thing to do, or not a serious subject matter. But I am trying to get people to see flowers in a different way. I think it is important as an artist for your work to come from a sincere place. There is something intangible about art, you can tell if the artist cared about making the work, or if they didn’t. Flowers have personal meaning for me, as they do for so many people, and I also think they are beautiful. I feel it’s a subject matter with endless possibilities and I’m just getting started.


Instagram: @emilyfiller

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