Emma Hack

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Emma Hack is talking about Gotye’s naked body. “I almost wanted to die,” she tells us, recalling a project she undertook last year painting the unclothed forms of Gotye and Kimbra for the video Somebody I Used to Know, which has now racked up over 400 million views on YouTube. “The whole process took 23 hours. I didn’t eat and I didn’t sleep. But it was worth it; a lot of people think my work is photoshopped, but it’s not – and this video proved it. Everything is hand-painted.” 

Australian artist Hack has been painting bodies since 1990. Her first piece came about organically, after her makeup artistry degree tutor suggested she continue painting down the body. “I started by painting clothes, which is the token form of body painting,” claims the artist. “Back then, it was quite a risqué thing to do in Adelaide, where I’m from.” Hack cites 1960s artist Veruschka as inspiration for her works – the progressive supermodel was known for painting herself into forestry and nature scenes. 

Aside from the Gotye video, Hack was also commissioned to create a piece promoting road safety last year, by the Motor Accident Commission of South Australia. The result was a three-dimensional image of a semi-demolished car, formed as a whole from 17 painted bodybuilders, athletes and acrobats. But her own personal art is drawn from her experiences as a female artist. She’s also known for her ‘blend’ murals, where female figures are camouflaged into wallpaper designs. In one of the pieces (she photographs every project), the eye is drawn first to a snowy white owl, then slowly the hand and the rest of the painted female form emerges from the image (see third slideshow image above). “I’m quite a strong feminine character,” she says. “I have opinions. My recent work is about how women can feel comfortable in their own bodies; nudity doesn’t have to be a purely sexual thing.” 

Hack stages her first international solo show, Trompe-l’oeil, at Cat Street Gallery this month, exhibiting a mix of limited edition prints and works from previous collections. To showcase the painstaking process her and her team go through with every piece, she’s also demonstrating a live body painting session at the gallery on August 28. A self-confessed experimentalist in her work – “I don’t want to be a one trick pony,” she chimes – Hack’s work has already gained plenty of interest around the world. She’s definitely somebody you should know… Ysabelle Cheung

Trompe-l’oeil The Cat Street Gallery, until Sep 22, thecatstreetgallery.com.

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