Emily Hartley-Skudder, Gentle on Hands and Everything They Wash (detail), 2019. Mixed media, including: PVC foam tiles, acrylic paint on window vinyl, readymade ceramic basins, oil on linen, enamel on pine frames, acrylic tinted soap, digital sublimation print on microfibre, aluminium trim

Emily Hartley-Skudder is a Wellington-based artist currently showing major new commission Additions + Alterations at Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Emily previously made a large-scale installation for our 2019 exhibition, We’re Not Too Big to Care (pictured above)

Can you tell us a little bit about your work that has been in Gus Fisher Gallery’s exhibition programme?

I was lucky enough to make a new installation for We’re Not Too Big to Care; the re-opening exhibition with Lisa Beachamp at the helm. I responded to Gallery Two, which used to be the building’s original female bathroom (and hence fit perfectly with my work!). This site-specific installation was titled Gentle on Hands and Everything They Wash, which is the slogan for an old kiwi favourite – Sunlight Soap. I utilised the high ceilings and incredible old windows, sticking faux stained glass window vinyl on the windows and foam mosaic tiles all the way to the ceiling.

Emily Hartley-Skudder, Gentle on Hands and Everything They Wash (detail), 2019. 

Emily Hartley-Skudder, Gentle on Hands and Everything They Wash, 2019. 

What have you been working on since then?

I completed my project Fancy Goods which began on a residency in Xiamen, China, in late 2018. This work became part of the group show Sympathetic Resonance at The Suter Art Gallery with a group of awesome artists, curated by Sarah McClintock. I also had a solo exhibition Lollygagger at Jonathan Smart Gallery in Christchurch, where an iteration of my Gus Fisher work had an outing, alongside a series of new works with paintings set into sculptural surrounds. I currently have a show on at Dunedin Public Art Gallery (in lockdown!). Staging Your Comeback is a solo project as part of Additions + Alterations, curated by Lauren Gutsell. For this exhibition I responded to eight works in DPAG’s contemporary collection, creating nine showroom-esque installations containing objects and paintings, for these works to sit within. You can do a ‘virtual tour’ (of sorts) on my website: https://emilyhartleyskudder.com/staging-your-comeback 

How have you been affected by Covid-19 professionally?

I’m in a pretty lucky situation where I’ll keep getting paid for my part-time job at an arts centre and can do bits and bobs for that online, so that helps cover rent etc. In terms of my practice – I tend to have an existential crisis after most projects as I often blow the budget, go into debt and realise it isn’t sustainable; so I think as artists we’re pretty used to financial instability. But in terms of the crazy, apocalyptic X-Files shit happening, and the world as we know it changing forever – I can’t quite get my head around that yet.

Emily Hartley-Skudder, Staging Your Comeback (details), 2020, Additions + Alterations at Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Courtesy of the artist.

What are you doing to entertain/occupy yourself in self-isolation?

I managed to grab my paints and my easel to set up a makeshift studio at home, and I have two linens to work on. When that dries up I’ll be hanging out for the studio to plan new works, shoot more source images and find materials (I don’t know if I can even buy the linen I use anymore!?). I’m enjoying walks and local bike rides on the quiet roads, and chilling out with my partner and our cat Bernie. A fun thing to do is lie around in different places next to the cat. I should be writing lots of proposals but I’m pretty unmotivated with that right now. I’m trying not to feel so guilty about not making more out of my time. To be honest, a lot of what I’m doing is resisting the urge to go back to bed…

Do you have any podcast, book, television, etc. recommendations for us?

I’m reading Chromophobia by David Bachelor which is a super interesting book about colour.  I also pulled out Yvonne Todd’s Creamy Psychology to re-read the great essays on her work. 

We’re watching The Sopranos – a classic I’ve never actually watched. I just saw that HBO is giving people 500 free hours. If it’s still on there, Deadwood is my favourite TV show ever.

Lying around with Bernie. Photographer: Hamish Coleman. Courtesy of the artist. 


In terms of podcasts, I’ve just listened to The Worst Sitcom Ever Made on RNZ which was entertaining non-covid content while painting. They have some real goodies on RNZ like Black Sheep, Gone Fishing and White Silence. I also just saw this list of art podcasts which I’m definitely going to try out, which you can read here

Clip from The Sopranos, courtesy of YouTube.