Oh Poppies!

Oh Poppies!
Truly you are the living, visible metaphor of the most tender hearted of us...
As the heart of the lettuce or the fennel is the gift in the salad... so secret and perfect....Sometimes, munching, I am move to weeping..

The Poppies hesitation to expose themselves, and throw off their unexpected colour, a surprise for them selves, I think colour, their extraordinary grace seems to me unaware of their own oh so fragile fragile delicate extreme beauty...and yet:

In exquisite colour and unpredictability of direction and surrender of shape and form that such unexpected strength and purpose.
When their protective shell falls, or perchance, is pulled off my an impatient child (or me) each blossom, seems to breath, exposed, but surrendered to the inevitable with such grace and beauty recalls, for me a new new new born baby, cautious, but oh so curious to strengthen and to witness the  privacy  of their unborn petals they protect beneath their prickly shells….Oh and when they explode in color crumpled and new born.




From the moment that we are born, we are moving toward our death.There is a numbness within us all, a silencing that somehow makes us forget that we will, eventually, not be here any more. If we are to live consciously and with an awareness of the consequences of our actions, our own death is a fact that we must remind ourselves of on a daily basis.This work is about summoning, our gratitude, regardless of our pain and disappointments of this fleeting moment that we have been given; life.Even though our hearts are aching, this is a reminder that we have been given a gift.Somewhat unwanted, strange and miraculous gift.

This painting is a reminder for me of the gift that we have been given, (by what ever it is that extraordinary, mysterious and glorious powerful force that decides these things) of life. This painting is a metaphor, a symbol of the experiences of pain and fear and disappointment that we all experience as a matter of course whilst ‘being’ human.Humanity has a history of pain, the unconscious choice to be numb, the stamping of the foot, the refusal to heal, to love, to feel.

We are human, and hence, unsatisfied and discontent, wanting.

I have chosen to represent our life lessons, our human frailty; the things that we must learn to live with or disregard or accept, accordingly, with trees, telegraph poles, streetlights, and finally a field of Poppies.

Telegraph poles are mostly made from trees.

Without trees we could not breathe, live. And with breath we are able to love, to feel.Without trees, we could not exist.If they are, by chance, chosen to be felled to be reincarnated as a telegraph pole, ironically, the shape that they become is the universal symbol of a sacred death: the cross.

And still, after death, these trees continue to serve us.They are the conduits of light, electricity, communication. Communication: our impossible and clumsy efforts to understand each other's attempts to express what we feel must be heard.Regardless of our projections and self-absorption, our inadequacy, our inability to really hear and see what is in front of us, we dumbly persist.Each one of us needs to be witnessed, seen, heard, understood.We need our innocence to be recognized by at least one other.Each one of us is incapable of witnessing, seeing hearing and understanding. And yet, we continue to try.That blind tenacity that we have, to continue to try, moves me.Our insistence that we will be, finally, understood, witnessed, known, our innocence recognized...our child like persistence, moves me.Each painting in this body of work is titled for a human grief or confusion. Expectation. Fear. Yearning. Disappointment. Betrayal. Longing. Lust. Resentment.


I, we, all of us eventually must face our own shadows if we are to' Move on'. If we are to arrive at our own personal “Field of Poppies’. Regardless of our courage or lack of.

Poppies: poppies to me, are like new born babies, when their strong and protective shell first comes off... crumpled and squashed and private and exposed and delicate and so fragile, new born. Vernix. Poppies take their time; not long though, then stretch out, extending their petals to the sun, strengthening for what is to come, slowly becoming a flower. Just like newborn babies do. The metaphor is simple, and thus, in black and white: We must walk through our own darkness’s to get to our own light.

The title of the field of Poppies is: The Happiness of The Poppies.

In this work, I am reminding my self, all of us, that we are temporary and that each moment is precious.

Do what you will with what I give you. W

With this gift of love.

And you will forget, because you are human.

We all are



Emma de Clario, 2013

Max Delaney’s speech for the opening of Emma de Clario’s exhibition NECESSARY.

@ The Anita Traverso Gallery, 7 Albert Street, Richmond, Melbourne, 2008


The remembrance of things past is also at the heart of Emma de Clario’s marvellous photo-paintings.

 Emma’s exhibition is comprised of 108 family photographs, which have been mounted onto reclaimed red-gum, and carefully, lovingly, painted so that certain details are accentuated, heightened, re-animated. 

 Emma had earlier undertaken a series of paintings on old postcards, and enjoyed their mood and nostalgic feeling. The intimacy of scale involved an equally intimate relationship between artist and viewer, which is again the case here.

 If postcards usually represent public places, and public memory, Emma’s move from postcards to her personal collection of family photographs suggests a move to a more personal, private realm of memory and imagination.

 Memory is fragile and fugitive, partial and episodic. It involves moments of heightened recognition, and others of seemingly arbitrary significance.

 Photos are also related to memory, albeit as slices of life, frozen in time. Emma invites the viewer to explore the difference between memory and imagination, between reality and fantasy, between the objective frame of photography and the subjective realm of experience; with memory itself subject to thoughts and feelings, shifts of emphasis, misrecognition, repression and forgetting.

 In the same way that we embellish memories, Emma has used painting, to embellish an archive of photography, to achieve a more intense, experience of her past, replete with the poetry of the unconscious.

 By grounding the photo-paintings onto reclaimed wood, she embodies these memories, projecting them from the archive and the containment of 2 dimensions, into the 3d realm of the world and the viewer.

 At the same time she opens up the photographic image to the temporal flow of experience, unfolding the frozen moment into the passage of time, so that we, as viewers might become absorbed within the play of paint, time and space within the image itself. In this sense they tell us a lot about both photography and painting.

 The installation is a bit like a story board of film stills – a life embodied, dispersed through time.

 Some things are rendered slightly unreal, or more intense than would have been the case for others. Others are wonky, distorted, rough and ready, like experience and memory itself.

We will each navigate our own passage through Emma’s paintings, drawn to hitherto unacknowledged details, forgotten moments, fragile, poetic remembrances, moments of longing, nostalgia, idealism, and others of great intensity, according to our own subjectivity, desires and memories.

 Congratulations and thanks…

Max Delany, 2008




Emma de Clario sweeps me into her house in a whoosh of pleasantries and kisses.  She is wearing her work pants, paint smeared in a patch on her thigh. Smelling faintly of sandalwood, she pulls her dark Italian hair back into a makeshift ponytail and smiles, her olive skin creasing around her eyes.

     "Hello, darling," she says, beaming.  "It's so good to see you."

     Louis, a young white dog, greets me with unbridled enthusiasm.  He is grinning, and his limber back twists and contorts as he slithers and smooches his way around our legs, vying for attention.

     Emma leads the way into her house, a converted warehouse on a leafy Clifton Hill street.  It's a long building; the hallway takes us past bedroom doors, a studio space, a bathroom and a wardrobe, and eventually opens into to a large, open living room.  The floors, concrete, are covered in rugs and the walls are crammed with paintings and pictures.

     A high windowsill is decorated with a plethora of objets d'art, dominated by a taxidermy crow poised on a branch.  Outside the window, an unkempt jasmine bush spills over a neighbour's fence into her courtyard.

     In the kitchen, Emma fills a kettle and puts it on the stove.

     "What kind of tea would you like?"

     She takes a tupperware container and spoons a mixture of herbs and spices into a teapot.  When the kettle begins to whistle, she takes it and pours the boiling water into the pot.

     We sit at her dining table, half-hidden under papers and pieces of her art.

     She pours the tea into mismatched cups and saucers.  A heady melange of cinnamon and cloves emanates from the brew.

     It is a Wednesday morning and Emma de Clario, a noted Melbourne visual artist and writer, has invited me for tea to talk about her upcoming exhibition, Ubiquity, to be held from December 1—22 at MARS Gallery in Port Melbourne.


     De Clario’s work is an undefinable hybrid of photography and painting.  Her artistic process involves using a photograph, often taken on her mobile phone camera, as a canvas.  The print is mounted onto a recycled offcut of wood, and embellished with her own painted strokes, to accentuate the emotional triggers in the image.  It is then varnished and sanded back to a smooth fish.

     The finished works are scattered around the house.  Some of them sit in a pile on the dining room table, some are strewn across it like magazines.  Others are packed up in boxes, tucked away in different corners, awaiting the exhibition.


     The works, themselves beautiful objects, feature mundane, ordinary subjects.  They are things that we see every day, but rarely notice: power poles, aerials, dead trees.

     They are the things that appear fleetingly on the side of the road, says de Clario, but we are too focused on our destination to notice them.

     The works’ objects are strangely familiar, but also alien and emotionally evocative.

     A gnarled, bare tree stretches its bony fingers toward a concrete sky.  Three birds confer on a darkened rooftop, the only witnesses to an otherworldly sunrise.  A lonely telegraph pole stands dwarfed against a tumultuous, stormy sky.

     The plan is to assemble these works, which are mostly no larger than one’s hand, or a paperback novel, on the central wall of the gallery.  They will be numerous, but just how numerous is still unclear as yet.

     “I’m aiming for 150,” she says, somewhat hesitantly.  “But I’ll let you know exactly closer to the time.”


     The works, de Clario says, are an attempt to “translate reality,” or to endue the images with an honest expression of the emotions the image conjures in her.

     The delicately painted strokes, and the moody palette, render the images with a sublime quality, allowing them to drift between the real and the dreamlike.

     She picks up one of her works from the pile on the table, and shows it to me. 

     Night time, an illuminated lamppost.

     “This is called ‘Regardless’,” she says.  “I will shine regardless.”


     Painting began as an escape from her day-to-day existence.  The mother of two young children, she found herself at a loss for time and a creative outlet.  When the kids were asleep at night, she would go to her father’s studio to work.

     She began painting on wood, she says, because she “didn’t have anything to draw on.”

     “I liked painting on chopping boards.”

     The chopping-board medium surfaces again later in our discussion, as Emma shows me some of her earlier works.  We linger for a minute over an painted image of a stormy night at sea, a black cliff jutting out of the water in the background.

     Through the translucent enamel coating the painting, we can see the grain of the chopping board discreetly peeping through.


     In this exhibition, de Clario conveys the innate beauty of objects that inhabit our lives, often without our notice.     We may glimpse them down side streets which our routine forbids us from travelling.  We see them in the sky, as we look for the break in the clouds.  They appear fleetingly on the side of the road, lost in the void between where we’ve come from and where we’re going.

     Through these objects, she explores the spirituality of the world around us.  More specifically, the omnipresence of god.

     Not in the Christian sense, she is quick to point out, but rather a power and life force that exists in the world and the people around us.

     “What I’m trying to do, and what I’m not finished with yet with this show... all of them are about translating reality.  To peel away the skin, and to expose what’s underneath.  That’s what I mean by ‘god’.”

     This wasn’t always the direction she envisaged the show taking.

     “It was much more simple to start with.  It was, the world is magnificent and gorgeous and divine.  And there’s spirituality in the trees, if only we were to look up.  That’s what it was about at first.  And this is the immensity that I see in my daily ramblings.

     “And now, it’s become, this is the visual — this is what that little voice inside us, our inner selves, this is what it looks like.  This is how I’ve translated that voice into something visual, that we can touch.

     “There is also that element of turning the earth into an entity.”


     Her use of the word ‘god’, however, has not come easily.

     “I am nervous about that element of it,” she says.  “I don’t want to be the reformed Christian artist.  I’m not going to wear a cross.”

     Her fear, she explains, is of alienating audiences through her expression of spirituality.  She wants to unite the audience with their mutual bond of humanity, although she is afraid of this being misconstrued.

     “For someone as oversensitive as me, I take these ridiculous risks.”


     Andy Dinan, the owner of MARS Gallery, says that while the idea of ‘god’ de Clario references may cause a few raised eyebrows, she is confident that the audience will respond to the beauty of her works.

      “Some people will quite clearly get it, and some won’t,” Dinan says.  “In a show, you can’t be everything to everyone.  I can’t put on shows thinking, ‘Will everybody get it or won’t they?’  I just have to, at the end of the day, be able to sleep at night and go, ‘Well, I believe in it, and that’s enough.’”


     Dinan, a stylish, formidable woman, talks with the genuine passion and unfailing belief in art that one would hope for in a gallery owner.  Her lively eyes affirm this conviction, and she looks at me intently as she speaks; a desire not to be misunderstood.

     We talk over tea in the in high-ceilinged chamber of MARS Gallery, in what Dinan describes as “the dud end of Port Melbourne.” 

     The table between us is strewn with meeting notes, invitations to openings, and art magazines.  Dinan fiddles with these as we talk, arranging and straightening a stack of magazines.


     She recalls she first heard of de Clario from the artist’s father, Domenico, several years ago.

     “Her father said, I think you would get on really well with my daughter,” says Dinan.  “I didn’t really think anything of it.”

     It was another year or two, she says, before she saw her works.  When she did, she was struck by de Clario’s artistic honesty.

     “You can take her on whatever level you find her,” Dinan says. 

     “If you want to find the work as a really pretty, aesthetically pleasing image, you can.  But then, if you want to look deeper, there are more things happening there.”


     For MARS Gallery employees Alexa Gower and Jessica Piesse, the works conjure early memories of childhood holidays, and long car trips.

     “It reminds me of ... having enough time to let your mind wander,” says Gower.  “Memories do an interesting thing to places as well.  You always remember something differently.”

     “I feel like each of the works has a double reflection,” adds Piesse.  “It’s almost like you’re seeing a memory of a place, but at the same time, you’re seeing that actual place.”

     “It’s this interesting, post-modern reification of an illusion,” she says.  “[Emma] talks about something which is greater.  It’s almost like planes and parallels that she sees, I think, that she tries to evoke in what she does.”


     Whether or not the audience engages with the works is one thing.  Whether or not they buy it, is another.

     Dinan is surprisingly quick to respond when asked about whether the global financial crisis has impacted on her business.

     “Absolutely,” she says.

     The stream of income from those who would collect for the sake of collecting, has all but dried up.

     “We used to have these women who would come and they would just buy on a whim, and they’ve totally disappeared.  But true collectors will follow an artist for a number of years, no matter what.”


     The issue of the GFC, and whether or not her show will sell, is something that de Clario isn’t able to dismiss easily.

     Art is her income, and making money is important, she admits.  But, “a few years ago, it wouldn’t have been.”

     The challenge of being an artist, she says, is to not compromise one’s artistic integrity to sell one’s work.

     “If I make work to sell it, it stops becoming art.  But because of survival, it is important that I sell it.  It’s a delicate predicament, because I’m feeding my children from my art.”


     For this reason, the work won’t stop when the exhibition is finished.

     De Clario has already made plans beyond the exhibition: she has been commissioned to paint an outdoor mural in a private house in Brighton. 

     “It’ll be summer, and there’s a pool there,” she says, smiling.  “The kids can just muck around, and I’ll paint.”

      A trip to India is also on the cards.

     But the more immediate concern, she says, is finishing the show.

     She still has a significant number of works to finish in the home-run leading up to the exhibition at MARS.  And although she is feeling the pressure, she is relishing the opportunity to immerse herself in her work.

     “It’s almost better, in a way, to go, ‘Okay, I’m going to go insane for two months’, than to do just little bits of it over a year.”

     Nerves about audience and critical reactions aside,  Dinan is excited to share the work in de Clario’s first exhibition at the gallery.

     “I think there’s a discovery in Emma herself, and in the work,” she says.  “The more you look, the more you see.”

Marios Exhibition 2005
Speech by Emma de Clario

Through my lifetime I have collected a considerable number of postcards, trinkets and photographs, each mapping different lives. I identified in many of these a unique moment in time that will never be repeated. In this, their anonymity is sacred.

Pasting these images to Australian red gum invites both my own memories and those belonging to others to share a common space.

I then complete these images in oils in the way that I might prefer reality to be.

I have become conscious that by doing so I am asking, what is perfect?

Dreams and fantasies or things and places that exist simply through being visible?

Which is more real; which is more `perfect`?

In some postcards I have altered the light of springtime’s clear blue sky and imposed upon the idyll my anxious darkness, my winter, my rage and my storm, through this manifesting the strangely complex miracle of my human-ness.

In others I have created warm golden sunlight, a sometime brilliant and glorious light where there was none, attempting to tame wild, barren places and saturate them instead with  abundance and gratitude, the sweetness of other worlds within me.

Destruction and decay, yearning life, desire and breath. I am all these things.

There is a deep internal world within which all of us keep memories and truths. To reach it we might need to alter parts of ourselves, perhaps even aspects of the perceived world- our histories, our regrets, our grief. We might need to deworld.


Are we all ?


This Is A Sentence

The First Longing

The First Promise

First Light

The Crossing Over


I Expect Joy






Outside Me, There Is Everything

I Want More


True Love


I Need To Tell You Something

God Is Everywhere

Forgive Me

Something Is Whispering

Place Your Hands On My Eyes



Listen To What Is Underneath

At The Darkest Place

This Is The Way

Spirit Is Compass

Have Courage

If You Were To Lose Me I Would Be Here


Waiting For Orpheus


Moving Inward

The Prayer: That Our Darkness Be Not Terrifying


Signal Me

Please Don’t Call My Name

I Am Liquid And Watching

I Am Still And Listening


You Are There And That’s It


I Want To Know You Are Alright

Hold My Hand

There's Things I Haven’t Said

I Kneel Before You And Tell You Everything But This

You Love Me

Not This, Something Else

The Waiting For The Wounds To Heal



Courage To Speak

No Absence No Ache. White. A New Blossom..

I Want To Do With You What Spring Does With The Cherry Trees

Give Yourself


The Melting

This Moment

This Is Inside Us

Kissing Memory

From Here Transformation



Inside Us, There Is Quiet


Not One Breath




Burn It Out


Behind Us It Is Empty

Nowhere Is Home

Everywhere We Are Home

Take Yourself Home

Light House

My Daughter Said,  I Love You So Much My Heart Is Fluttering

I Ran, Wanting, Behind Me She Said You Are All You Need

Find Me A Truer Night To Travel


It Requires A Breath. A Gentle One, That In itself Is Nothing Else, Only Breath.

This Life Is Yours, Find A Way To Be Inside It

Go This Far

There Will Come A Time Of Choice

Everything Exists, Everything Is True

Discover One More Thing


This Is The Storm And This Is The Wish

I Have Known Warmth And Tenderness


You And I Then: Indivisible

Listen, You Said, In The Trees. Inside Them You Can Hear Them Becoming Older


When We First Fell In Love, We Would Walk

Stepping From Each Doorway, I Move The Signs From Hand To Hand

Eventually You Enveloped Me With A Strange Quilt That I Designed

If It All Ends With Sky: Pull Me To It

Just Say Thank You

All Is Well 

Bury Me Standing