Emma K Thomas - One could say that scalpels have been there all along.

One could say that scalpels have been there all along.

As a medical student, my epiphany that this was not for me; that I was on the wrong path, came as I stood in theatre one morning, assisting on Mr McDonald’s colorectal surgery list, and the contents of someone’s large bowel came swooshing out over my clogs, unfortunately perforated ones.

Some years later, after a period spent as a radio producer – where we also used scalpels to cut magnetic tape while editing, sometimes at high speed during live broadcasts, before digital editing systems came along – I decided I needed to go to art school.

It was there that I bought my Swann Morton scalpel (number 3). It has stayed with me ever since, moving to Copenhagen from London, where it reminds me every time I handle it, of my roots in Sheffield. This small piece of steel, such a humble object, but redolent of massive things, the Don Valley and its great furnaces and factories which were falling, had already largely fallen, into disuse when I was growing up.

Interruption, discontinuity and the marginal are central themes in my work, hence the importance of the blade, which I use to create clean lines and breaks in my drawings and paintings. The process of cutting is itself very therapeutic I find; the decisions are taken prior to the cut, so once cutting it is all about following the line. There is something incredibly satisfying about this, especially when working on a large scale, your focus closing in on such a small moving point.

I do a lot of masking, in some cases incorporating the masking film into the work itself. By playing with physical edges and masked forms, against an amorphous non specific ground, I can generate complex spaces which are asking questions about presence and absence, what is and is not there, as well as exploring the relationship between structure and chaos.

You can see my work at emmakthomas.com