Emma Richardson is best-known as the female singer and bass guitarist from alt rock group Band of Skulls, but she is also developing a niche as a visual artist. The covers of Band of Skulls' debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey were created by Richardson and formed part of her first exhibition, entitled Meat Me At The Butchers. Her first solo exhibition, Cruisin' For A Bruisin', opens today.
At school, art was the only subject that I was good at. I was doing a foundation art course at Winchester when I met Russel [Marsden, her bandmate]. I had good tutors and they encouraged me to apply to Wimbledon, but it was hard then to keep on painting with all the gigs and going on tour.
Writing songs and painting are really similar but you use a different part of your mind. With writing music you start with a small idea, step back, add parts, shuffle it around a bit then stand back again and it sorts itself out in your head. It's a similar process with art, you keep re-working it.
It helps to have a deadline. I had to design some artwork for the new album Sweet Sour, so I got a studio space in Southampton and spent five weeks constantly working. I hadn't done any painting since 2004! I've still got that studio in Southampton and I try to go there as often as I can now. It's a nice break from the other stuff.
You can paint and draw whenever you want but there's only a certain time for music. When the moment happens in music you have to follow. Instead of concentrating on my degree, I was writing songs.
I have an obsession with The Fall of the Damned by Rubens; the tensions and struggle and falling and pulling. I've always been intrigued by the suggestive side of painting with oils and distortions of human form. If you suggest a thigh or ribs, people are drawn to it because it's something they know, one brush suggests something and a line suggests something else. It takes on that Rorschach ink test feel where the viewer projects their own feelings onto it. I start by making sure the composition will work, then I draw figures and then censure them with paint. I choose where to hide things or make figures more apparent. It ends up looking animalistic or sexually suggestive.
The visceral and psychological aspects of Richardson's work have drawn comparisons with Lucian Freud, but she counts the following among her influences:
Hans Bellmer's drawings and sketches - "for the fluidity and explicitness"
Ralph Steadman - "for his angry ink drawings"
Jenny Saville - "she was an influence on me when I was at Wimbledon, I loved the free movement - and the colour as well.”
The band release their second album, Sweet Sour, on 20 February. Cruisin' For a Bruisin' opens at Londonewcastle Project Space, 28 Redchurch Street, E2 7DP from 2 - 12 February 2012.