Emilia Olsen

Emilia Olsen is primarily a figurative painter who has experimented with artist books, drawing, site specific installation, and hand drawn animation. Olsen believes that to tell a true story, one must tell the one that they know. Her practice is to tell what she knows in the way she knows how.  The work features a personal array of symbolism; female nudes, pseudo self portraits, odalisques, skulls, bathers, ocean themes, and table settings. These images extend further into their own worlds. Renaissance works are a main reference point, along with a conceptual adolescence eventually influenced by Post-War Abstract Expressionism, and many contemporary figurative painters.

This visual language manifests in reaction to daily rituals around mental health maintenance; personal documentation via journaling, photography, quick video recordings, and sketching; reading and research, especially of poetry and mythology; and the examination of personal experiences, memories. Each part of the ritual nudges the next. 

Olsen is heavily inspired by writers like bell hooks, jamie hood, Frank O’Hara, Maggie Nelson, who write things better said in their words, that speak to the inevitability of death, love, heartbreak, joy, grief. This relates to the artist’s ethos that all those big things are all connected, that they meet in the middle of an in-between, the twilights, the velvety nights, the way the light changes, the dreamlike, the hazy and the half asleep. Olsen reduces big emotions into a visual projection, the one happening around you when everything is happening. They are meant to symbolize the everyday moments, what happens in your periphery, however regular the scene. How some details loom bigger than others. How mythology is told. 

Emilia Olsen was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1989. In 2011, she received her BFA from the Corcoran College of Art & Design in Washington, DC. She has exhibited her work nationally, with solo shows at Spring Break Art Show (NY), Arts & Leisure (NY) and Doppelganger |Studio (Queens) and notable recent group exhibitions at Deanna Evans Projects (NY), Freight & Volume (NY), Gallery Also (LA), Elephant Gallery (Nashville), Greenpoint Terminal Gallery (Brooklyn), and Juxtapoz Projects at Mana Contemporary (NJ). She has been artist-in-residence at DNA Residency (Provincetown, MA); New York Studio Residency Program (Brooklyn, NY); Starry Nights (Truth Or Consequences, NM); Hotel Belmar (Costa Rica) and the Horse and Art Research Program (Hungary). Her work has been featured in Two Coats of Paint, Vogue, Art Maze, Hyperallergic, Maake Magazine, the podcast Sound & Vision and others. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

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