Friday, 18 March 2011


'Love Moo' by Emily Mugridge

From Saturday 26 March to Saturday 9 April, we're delighted to be hosting an exhibition of new work by up-and-coming Bollington artist Emily Mugridge.

A full-time lecturer in Art at Macclesfield College, Emily’s work is much in demand. Her cow paintings are especially popular and people just love the way Emily manages to convey each cow's personality. At the last East Cheshire Hospice Art Fair in Macclesfield, the wife of top celebrity and BBC Radio 2 DJ, Christ Evans, bought two of Emily’s cow paintings for their little boy’s nursery.

“That was a really nice surprise,” says Emily, “although I’m delighted when anyone buys my work. It’s just nice to know that people appreciate what I’m doing.”

Brought up in an artistic household (Emily’s mum is also a well-respected local artist), Emily spent her childhood making and creating things. “There was a time when the whole family had to watch TV through the rib cage of a life-sized horse made from paper,” she says. “My GCSE Art project. That hung in the lounge for about four months!”

Emily’s paintings are loose and textured, often incorporating a mix of paint, tile adhesive, plaster, enamel and collage which she constantly sands, scrapes and washes back to reveal hidden layers. Her work is very evocative and with some you can almost smell the flowers in the foreground. Emily has a wonderful way of communicating a sense of place in her paintings, making local landscapes of Bollington and the surrounding hills come to life.

‘Scene and Herd’ is at thewhitegallery from 26 March to 9 April 2011.

To accompany the exhibition, Emily has produced a 'cow sketchbook', available to order online at - just search for her by name.

'Late Summer Colours' by Emily Mugridge


Emily, you've become rather well-known for your cows! Explain the fascination please, for yourself and others?

I think the real fascination began for me when I was stuck in a ‘cow jam’ in Adlington one morning. My car was surrounded by a herd of dairy cattle on the milk run. I had my camera with me and although the photographs were not great, they gave me a starting point for a painting.

From a young age I have always drawn and painted animals, particularly horses. Whilst horses undoubtedly make great subject matter they have been the subject of many paintings through the ages, whereas cows have traditionally been in the background – part of the scenery. I know there are many other contemporary artists who would agree with me that cows deserve to take the limelight once in a while. There is something about cows that I find more challenging as a painter – they are cumbersome, lumpy and angular. They are also very beautiful in a more down-to-earth way and they have a sort of gentle humour about them. I try to capture that in my work. I can’t speak for everyone of course, but I think that the element of humour or narrative appeals to people who buy my work. My cows have a tangible personality.

You paint other things too, landscapes and cityscapes. How do you go about choosing your subject matter?

We live in an area of stunning natural beauty and can also be in the city within 30 minutes, so choosing subject matter is never a problem. I tend to look for subjects that will provide me with a challenge. It might be a single factor, like the colour of a stormy sky, which triggers an idea for a painting. Sometimes the subject matter is chosen for me – someone will commission me to paint a specific place. And then some places just have a resonance for me and I know them well, so I paint them often and instinctively.

Your mum is a talented local artist as well, Joan Fisher. Was she a big influence?

My mum spent a lot of time with me drawing, painting and sewing. As well as teaching me practical skills I realise now that she showed me how to be resourceful and creative. Both my mum and dad were a great influence as I grew up because they allowed me to have an imagination and never complained about the mess I made in the process! I remember making a picture out of pasta shapes glued onto the kitchen wall when I was about three. There was a time when the whole family had to watch TV
through the rib cage of a life-sized horse skeleton made from paper – my GCSE Art project. That hung in the lounge for about four months.

You work full time as a Lecturer in Art at Macclesfield College, as well as having three small children - how do find the energy (or time) to paint?

I always find the time somehow! It often means late nights. I have a very supportive husband and kids who are proud of what I do and don’t mind living with the boxes of canvases and splashes of paint.

Also, there is (or should be) a symbiotic relationship between teaching art and practicing art. I am a big believer in ‘practice what you preach’. When I was at Art College the lecturers were quite guarded about their own work and I found that frustrating. The one lecturer who had the biggest influence on me was the one who brought his own work in to discuss and offer technical advice. So I try to do that myself and I take work in to College to discuss with students. When I’m not teaching I normally have a painting on the go in the corner of the studio. The students that I teach are mainly studying on Higher Education level (Foundation Degree) courses already or preparing for Higher Education, so it is important that they have a clear sense of professional Fine Art practice.

Any advice for budding local artists?

I always say to my students that the world of Art, Design and Craft is highly competitive and although raw talent is important, success is also about perseverance:

Enter competitions and take part in exhibitions. Get involved in local arts festivals. Contact galleries. Don’t be put off by rejection. Be organised and never let people down. Keep your name in peoples’ consciousness. Have a good ‘web presence’. Have good quality photos and jpegs of all your work.

Most of all…make work that you enjoy making! It will probably be necessary to strike a balance between what you enjoy doing and what people want to buy, but never let it become a chore.

Are there things you'd like to see happening in Macclesfield to improve the arts scene & to help promote local artists' work?

The Barnaby Arts Festival has really helped to highlight the wealth of creative talent that thrives in Macclesfield and the surrounding area. However, I would love to see a permanent public gallery space/ Arts Centre in the town to showcase this talent, ideally a space where various sectors of the community (schools, colleges, community groups, artists and makers etc.) could collaborate on creative projects.

'Lavender Fields' by Emily Mugridge