Emma Howell

New Abstract Paintings: Healing Wounds with Raw Honey

Emma Howell
3 November, 2019


“Just as bees make honey from thyme, the strongest and driest of herbs, so do the wise profit from the most difficult of experiences.” – Plato. 

Raw Honey will make its debut almost 1200 days after I lost my Dad.

Be that as it may, this collection of new abstract paintings is not an expression of sadness and despair; it’s in fact an attempt to keep my Dad’s creativity, talent and success alive. It’s a celebration of his life and a proclamation that something sweet can come out of trauma.

A word-for-word excerpt from my latest journal:

When you lose someone close to you, you feel like the world is against you, it’s unfair, “why me?” you think. Life becomes dark and meaningless once you’re exposed to death. What’s the point?

Grief works in strange ways. One minute, you don’t want to exist, the next you’ve forgotten; it’s a constant push and pull, which is a constant discomfort. You keep asking yourself “are you healed now?”, “are you over it?” – and the part of you that forgets what has happened makes you believe that you’re free of grief.

Really, it’s the opposite; you couldn’t be more far away from freedom. Your forgetfulness is your brain refusing to process it, ignoring the dark hole that just keeps growing and growing. Painting is a distraction, yes, but it is also an attempt to see the world in a better light.

It’s obviously not working. Stop kidding yourself.

This was written on the coach back to the airport from our hotel in Crete. We had just seen the remnants of a car accident on the road and my mind obviously wandered to the grief part of my brain. I actually remember the urge to write this; I needed to get it out. You know, like that part of us all that needs just one more chocolate digestive biscuit or just one more episode of whatever you’re watching on Netflix (despite it being 00:34am). I had to write it – and I didn’t care about whatever Jon was talking about next to me.

In these moments, I could not be more far away from my painterly and creative self; I revel in feeling negative about my life and pity myself.

Luckily, I fight against this version of me by creating new paintings.

When it came to the production of Raw Honey, I looked back at the latest documentations in my journals.

Words written in these small leather-bound books are always raw, spontaneous and honest; they’re either overheard conversations, song lyrics, words from road signs and building names, colour descriptions, random thoughts or quite often, things I’ve said out loud that I found funny, irrational or haphazard.

Similar to the words in my journals, the marks and shapes I record are raw, and reflective of things I’ve seen, felt, heard or touched (in a variety of different places and scenarios). Textures of rocks, outlines of mountains, patterns of trees and deep colours of the ocean have been increasingly evident in my recordings. The colour of people’s clothing and the fluctuating air temperatures have also made an impact.

But there was one scene that brought the collection together.

Before the collection came together as one and Raw Honey got its name, one experience kept reappearing in my mind: It was a really warm day – you know, when you look ahead and the air is moving from the heat. We were driving through rural parts of Crete, through canyons, alongside vineyards and past elderly couples selling their homemade olive oil and honey on the side of the road – when we came across rows and rows of brightly coloured boxes in the middle of nowhere. I had no idea what they were and I actually found their presence a little eerie.

After looking them up online, their purpose turned out to be rather sweet; they were bee boxes for beekeepers to keep their hives for their honey production. My initial trepidation was quite unnecessary.

At this moment, deep amber yellow and rich violet needed to happen on paper. So, I wrote down the experience and as soon as we got back to the hotel room, our balcony turned into a temporary art studio – I had a couple of new abstract paintings I needed to plan out.

This is the painterly self that I’m talking about.

I’m very excited to release Raw Honey to you later this month. This honest, sentimental and adventurous collection of 33 original abstract paintings will give you an insight into how I’ve evolved as a person and artist over the last three years.

Keep watching it develop over on Instagram.

New abstract paintings by Emma Howell