In Conversation with Emi Avora

In Conversation with Emi Avora


An artist draws inspiration from a myriad of sources. It can be from the artist’s personal experiences and history or informed by the culture and literature. For Emi Avora, the Singapore based artist, it is her Greek heritage that has influenced her paintings. As we all know that mythology plays a huge part in Greek culture, Emi wishes to translate elements of that into her body of works which often includes items of familiarity such as objects we use daily. This is perhaps Emi’s way of bringing a fresh perspective to this paraphernalia, often through the clever use of colours, proportions and composition. For her, the paintings should help us understand and engage in a dialogue, the Greeks are after all the inventors of dialectics—the pursuit of what is the truth through a discourse.

Ahead we get to know a little more about Emi, who is part of the INFLUENCERS series of artists, presented at Alliance Française de Singapour, as she explains to us her journey as an artist and her creative process behind her thought-provoking art pieces.

You were born in Greece (1979), studied in the UK and you are now based in Singapore, tell us about your background and where your creative journey began?

The light makes the shapes, the shapes make the memories, acrylic on canvas, 120x140cm, 2021

I am from Greece, was born in Athens and grew up on the island of Corfu. Although it didn’t always feel like that at the time, growing up in Corfu was an idyllic upbringing in many ways, growing up in a town that is a Unesco heritage site and surrounded by the sea, enjoying the Mediterranean climate. Elements from my upbringing definitely inform my work today: the memory of that strong Mediterranean light that brings clarity and strength to colour as well as the place’s special history and the remains of its colonial past. My father is also a painter so I was lucky to have a connection to the arts from a young age and the support I needed to continue with it. We had a studio in the house where I would discover art materials and I would spend time in there ‘painting’ with my dad. I decided to pursue Visual Arts more seriously when I was a teenager and prepared to apply for Art School. I found out about the Ruskin school in Oxford and I got a place there which was what brought me to the UK, and was where I lived and worked for over 20 years. I continued with my Masters at the Royal Academy Schools and maintained my studio practice since then. I moved to Singapore two years ago with my family and I found the new landscape and environment here very inspiring. I feel my current body of work combines aspects of my heritage and background as well as my everyday living here.

What has been your latest project and what is planned for you across 2021? 

Picnic, acrylic and oil on canvas, 100x120cm, 2019

Over 2020 there was a lot of activity but mainly online because of Covid restrictions. My work was part of some Art publications including Friend of the Artist (FOA) and of Create! magazine which was very exciting and I had my work featured in quite a few online platforms, including a solo show on Side x Side Contemporary, a feature on The Greek Foundation and an interview at Young Space. I hope in 2021, I can show this latest body of work in real spaces as nothing beats seeing artwork in the flesh. Starting with the show at Alliance Francaise (Singapore) and hopefully a few other projects in Singapore and abroad, let us hope that the Covid situation gets better so they can actually materialise.

Your colour palette is composed of vivid pink, red and green hues. What role does colour play in your work?

It looked like it would last forever, acrylic on canvas, 200x210cm, 2021

Colour has become increasingly important in my work over the last two years. It allows me to create a dream space, a parallel universe that is accessible through the formal elements of the images and colour in particular. I often choose intense and vivid combinations of colour that add to the fictional nature of the spaces I create and move away from the naturalistic. The way I use colour is quite organic and fluid so there is no grand plan behind the placement before starting the work. There is, however, a kind of ‘dance’ or sometimes a ‘battle’ between me and the colours when it comes to finding the right balance that will eventually render the painting ‘complete’. A strong sense of how light is portrayed in my paintings a constant in my work so my choices of hues and the way I place them on the canvas is often driven by that.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Tropics lunch, acrylic on canvas, 42x29cm, 2021

Observations from my everyday domestic life, motherhood chaos, odd humorous encounters but also fictional situations, usually weave together in my work. The tropical nature, scenes from a leftover dinner table, the plastic stools on the side of the road might be starting points for a composition. However, these get imbued with elements stemming from Greek mythology, ancient Greek pottery and other fictional elements guided from books I am reading. Last but not least the making of the painting i.e. the language of painting itself becomes part of the inspiration. I tend to look and research a lot of artists and I place my own work in dialogue with contemporary as well as older art tendencies, in particular, the early 20th-century painting movements.

What emotions do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?

In limbo of unspoken words, acrylic on canvas, 140x160cm, 2021

I endeavour to create a space for dreaming, where the viewer, as a protagonist, can enter and dream in. I would like to offer a visual journey that opens up onto an exit point—usually a source of light—that can act as a portal. The viewer encounters exaggerated colours, warped perspective and changes in scale in my compositions. Albeit maximalist with a lot of things going on, I strive for an overall balance that allows an understanding of each painting as a singular piece and offers a sense of wonder and tranquillity to the viewer.

What is the role the artist plays in the society?

A contemporary artist acts as a transmitter of contemporary life through personal background, experience which serves as a filter, understanding and vision. Art is pluralistic these days, it happens on many platforms, in a multitude of media and it can be singular or collaborative. However it always makes us, the viewers, understand our lives and our world a little bit better and offers us an avenue to imagine new possibilities.

The five words that describe best your art?

Jungle with cones, acrylic on canvas, 160x140cm, 2021

Colourful, dreamy, maximalist, fresh, complex

What can visitors expect to see from you at INFLUENCERS 2021?

I am showcasing three pieces from my latest body of work that I made since moving to Singapore. It is a good sample of where my practice is right now in terms of colour palette, subject matter and handling of materials. Visitors will encounter fictional images of still lives and interiors steeped in colourful tropical nature rendered in bright light. 

Which is your favourite museum in Singapore?

Fish gazing iii, acrylic on canvas, 90x70cm, 2021

The museum I have visited the most since I’ve been in Singapore is the Asian Civilisation Museum as I have been curious to see artefacts that I had not visited elsewhere. I also follow the contemporary art galleries in Singapore and enjoy discovering contemporary artists.

So far, what is your most vivid memory of life in Asia? 

If we talk about Southeast Asia, first in line will have to be the baroque tropical nature, the continuous dense green that never fades, the palm trees and plants. Then follows the humidity and heat, the variety of food and the plastic chairs around the hawker centres.  

If you were to name one mentor who has inspired you in your life and path as an artist, who would that be?

Studio mates, acrylic on canvas, 160x140cm, 2020

It would definitely be my father who introduced me to art at a young age, taught me and continues to teach me how to look at things and supported me on my journey so far.


Emi Avora’s art pieces are currently on display at Alliance Française (Singapore).

Date: 8 May to 19 June 2021

Time: Monday: closed

Tuesday to Friday: 1:00pm-7:30pm

Saturday: 9am-5.30pm

The Gallery is opened with limited access and only groups of 2 are allowed to enter. To book a slot, please visit this website: https://www.eventbrite.sg/e/influencers-tickets-155756121753

Location: La galerie, Alliance Française de Singapour, 2nd Level
1 Sarkies Road Singapore 258130

For more information regarding this exhibition, you can visit the Alliance Française de Singapour website.

To view more of Emi’s works you can visit her website here, or visit her Instagram page: @erasmiavora.





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