ELIZABETH EMMA TOOTH
One of the most exciting artists working in portraiture today (1), Elizabeth Emma Tooth exhibits her breathtaking oil paintings all over the UK and abroad. She is best known for her Extraordinary Portraits of Ordinary People entitled 'Concilium Plebis' and her painting 'The Captive' (2) commissioned by Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Recently she was commissioned to create a new painting for the Ingestre Collection - the first in over 80 years.
Tooth's paintings feature in many public and private collections all over the world including the UK, France, Iceland, Germany, North America and South Africa.
She has has featured in Japanese streetstyle magazines (3), on BBC Radio discussing Caravaggio, exhibited at dozens of galleries and museums as well as former-dungeons, tattoo conventions and derelict buildings. An occasional art tutor and manikin, she has modelled for other artists and photographers and once, an 'alternative' clothing company. She created the enigmatic art book 'From Pigfarmers and Showgirls', to explore her own origins and give people a glimpse inside her head - and succeeded in perplexing almost everyone.
In 2010 she mixed her dignified and reverent (4) paintings of chavs and hoodies in with those of the 18th Century master Joseph Wright, then filled the museum with breakdancers, who, back-flipping among the priceless works of art created a most memorable night for visitors and insurance underwriters alike. Later her paintings inspired the acclaimed street-dance shows Council of The Ordinary and Tribal Assembly by Bad Taste Cru.
click here to read full biography...
After she gained Arts Council funding to start the Concilium Plebis project and The Guardian suggested it was worth seeing (5), she toured extensively for several years from 2008 under the name Emma Tooth, exhibited with Lazarides gallery in two solo shows and in the 'Grifters' group show alongside Antony Micallef, Faile, Jonathan Yeo, Invader etc. and became nominally associated with 'Street Art'. She was the 'featured Artist' at the 2012 Picks of the Harvest show, Thinkspace gallery, California, where she appeared in 18th century costume and was described as 'The shining star of the night' on HiFructose.com.
A selection of her paintings at the Liverpool Biennial 2008 were also displayed in the studio for a special edition of Newsnight Review (6). She narrowly avoided appearing on Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares by refusing to flirt with its star (who thought her a 'canny minx') and was invited to participate in Rolf Harris's Star Portraits program. Fortunately she declined the latter, but in a brief lapse of judgment did appear on Channel 5's Trisha (7).
Around 2004 when she was known as Emma Simcock-Tooth, she was invited to form part of a ragtag band of renegade artists and writers taken under the wing of legendary Brit comic artist Liam Sharp to create Event Horizon. Emma had once cherished a long-forgotten dream of being a comic-artist - and even briefly worked in a comic shop as a teenager - so it seemed fated that the world of comics should eventually come to her. And her paintings were so good it seemed, people often expected her to be a man. It was published in English and Italian and won Best Graphic Novel at SciFi London 2006. She travelled round the UK and France for many book-signings and comic conventions over the next few years; sharing drinks and some memorable evenings with such Luminaries as Simon Bisley and Glenn Fabry. French artist Barkmann even created a character - Madame Geist - inspired by Emma's unique style.
It was when exhibiting at the State of the Art International Tattoo Convention for the second time (and coming down with flu) Emma was approached and kindly tended by piercing world record-holder (8) Elaine Davidson, whom she later painted as the 'Watchmaker'. At the previous year's event Tooth was interviewed on ITN local news, and was edited so severely that she came across as quite, quite mad. She posed in an 18th Century gown underwater as Ophelia. Twice. And one afternoon in Kyoto she donned the traditional regalia of the Geisha, who dedicate their lives to carrying art to its highest expression and are said to inhabit a separate reality (9). The parallels were irresistible.
Over the years she has made appearances in all sorts of obscure magazines and blogs, many now long gone, and was even covergirl for a dubiously-named Norwegian music magazine and a vampyric lifestyle magazine (10). She also appeared larger-than-life on BBC Bigscreens in Derby (2009) and Liverpool (2008).
She is the woman with a rifle in her lap and birds in her hair (11), who collaborated on and appears in some of the spooky short films of Owen Tooth (12) - her childhood sweetheart whom she wedded in a 900-year-old castle in 2004. The bride wore a black bustle-dress created by her dearest friend, the couturier Olivia Barnard-Firth - better known as The Wicked Lady (13), and 100 guests, also clad in black, filled the Norman castle.
While still at University she exhibited with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, created a painting 30 feet long and penned the year's highest-scoring dissertation. She was declared a force to be reckoned with (14) when she took the Artist's Commission Prize at the Derby Open Exhibition in 2001 and her portrait of Owen entered the Derby Chamber of Commerce's collection. She joined a choir and sang in Bulgarian for several years and briefly fronted a (thoroughly dreadful) band. During this period she also 'brushed off' (15) a large repair bill at her local garage by painting murals of classic cars as payment
A lifestyle magazine ran several features on the artist and her home (16) and praised "her seemingly endless creativity", for as well as creating her own unique clothes she collects, restores and revamps antique clothes, particularly Victorian bead work - obsessively. "Some may say she is a walking piece of art herself thanks to her theatrical presence. Stunning eye make-up and clothes with an historical air show her creativity in in evidence every which way." (17)
Emma began making her own clothes around the same time she began to paint, and is self-taught in both respects. In a now sadly-defunct art magazine (18) she described her art education; 'It was when I was about 17 my wonderful A-Level tutor handed me a box of gnarled old oil paint tubes and a filthy jam-jar of turps, and with the words "have a play!" my career had begun.' Known variously by her schoolfellows as "The Black Widow" or "Tank Girl" (19) (due to a very severe shaved haircut she sported throughout her teens and 20's) Tooth thoroughly hated her school years, but she quite enjoyed writing essays. Really, really long ones. At A-level she scored triple A's in Art, Photography and Media Studies and scooped a special commendation for her final exhibition which was deemed Degree-standard.
Born in Cambridge and now living in rural Derbyshire, her earliest memory was when she ran away from home and was found talking to a crow as it pecked gently at her shoes. Since then she has rescued many wild birds and especially chickens, and spends almost all of her time in their company.
(1) "Emma Tooth is among the most exciting fine art portrait painters in England today." http://www.sourharvest.com/an-interview-with-emma-tooth/ 24/02/12
(3) Including Kera Maniax magazine, Japan, in 2007 and 2008.
(4) Concilium Plebis reviewed in The Metro newspaper 08/01/09 as "The best place to overcome class prejudice... Emma Tooth's Renaissance-style oil paintings of white youths often demonised in the media as chavs and hoodies imbue the subjects with dignity and reverence."
(5) TheGuardian.com 'The Beating Art of Newcastle' 22/12/09
(6) Tooth's paintings were selected for prominent display in the 3/10/08 special edition of Newsnight Review from Liverpool during the Biennial that year.
(7) Yes, this really happened. Emma was contacted by the Trisha team and invited to appear on the show discussing her black wedding. She agreed (just so she could really say she had been on a daytime talkshow) and got what she deserved alongside a male witch and some people wearing bells who perhaps would have been better off in some kind of secure accommodation rather than being paraded on British television. Tooth was asked quite seriously by an awed audience member if she even wears a black swimming costume when she goes on holiday. The answer, of course, was Yes.
(10) Many obscure publications including covers and features in vampiric lifestyle magazine 'Chronicles' circ. 2002, the dubiously-named Norwegian dark music magazine, 'Rimfrost' in 2003, Graphotism 2008, Blancopop.com (Spanish) 2010, Eyezine 2011, www.20minutos.es (Spanish) 2012 to name just a few.
(11) Imagine FX Magazine, Aug 2008 , Feature p.71.
(13) The Wicked Lady, burlesque performer http://www.thewickedlady.org.uk/
(14) The Derby Evening Telegraph called her work "A force to be reckoned with" circ.2001
(15) The Derby Evening Telegraph pulls out all the puns for their short photo-article 'Artist brushes off repair bill at garage' , 22/07/03, p3
(16) Wendy Roberts in The Derbyshire Magazine, 2011
(17) Wendy Roberts in The Derbyshire Magazine, 2008
(18) Rooms magazine, issue 12, 2013
(19) Interview with Alice Doyle for Sequential Tart 01/05/07 http://www.sequentialtart.com/article.php?id=492
SELECTED SOLO SHOWS
2017 NEW FRIENDS FOR ALATHEA, Ingestre Hall, Staffordshire
2016 NEW FRIENDS FOR ALATHEA, Wednesbury Museum
2015 BREAKING ART Wallner Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham
2014 BREAKING ART Déda, Derby
2014 BREAKING ART The Customs House Gallery, Newcastle
2013 EVOLUTION, Corke Gallery, Liverpool
2012 BREAKING ART pop-up show, Movida, London
2012 THE CAPTIVE at Derby Museum and Art Gallery
2011 HEREDITY Lazarides Gallery, Newcastle
2010 CONCILIUM PLEBIS Lazarides Gallery, London
2010 EXTRAORDINARY PORTRAITS OF ORDINARY PEOPLE FEAT. JOSEPH WRIGHT OF DERBY. Derby Museum and Art Gallery
2009 CONCILIUM PLEBIS The Biscuit Factory's CUBE space, Newcastle
2009 CONCILIUM PLEBIS Sandford Goudie Gallery, The Customs House, Tyne and Wear
2004 Michael Naimski Gallery, London
2003+4 STATE OF THE ART INTERNATIONAL TATTOO CONVENTION Assembly Rooms, Derby
SELECTED COLLECTIONS, COMMISSIONS + AWARDS
2018 Commissioned to create a new piece for the collection of the University of Leicester to celebrate International Women's Day.
2014-16 Commissioned to create new work for the UK's Ingestre Collection. Using local young people as models to make the rest of the collection more appealing and accessible.
2012 Derby Museum and Art Gallery commissioned 'The Captive' for their permanent collection to respond to the work of Joseph Wright for his 275th birthday celebrations.
2010 Derbyshire Libraries and The Big Lottery Grant commissioned 2 large paintings for 2 newly-built libraries. Emma met with members of the public who were likely to be using the new libraries and discussed what they wanted, later using them as models.
2008 Awarded Arts Council funding to begin her successful series Concilium Plebis.
2004 Awarded Arts Council funding to experiment with underwater photography for the Ophelia series.
2001 Derby Chamber of commerce.
BOOKS + ESSAYS
2017 Orpheus in the World Interior by John David Ebert
2017 These Things We No Longer Are by John David Ebert
2015 Cultural Decay Rate by John David Ebert
2014 The Art Of Gothic by Natasha Scharf
2013 Cultural Discourse - 'On Emma Tooth's Painting, The Captive' an essay by John David Ebert
2011 Take a Bite by Nancy Schumann
2010 From Pig Farmers and Showgirls By Emma Tooth
2005 Mam Tor's Event Horizon 2
2005 Mam Tor's Event Horizon 1 (English and Italian versions)
Event Horizon won Best Graphic Novel at SciFi London 2006 as well as being nominated for the Eagle Award in 2007.
SELECTED GROUP SHOWS
2014 THE 13TH HOUR Last Rites Gallery, New York, USA
2014 GILTY KISS 423 West Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2014 Thinkspace Gallery, California, USA
2013 Urban Contemporary international sale Digard MVV, Drouot Building, Paris, France
2013 WHAT IS DRAWING? Customs House Gallery, Newcastle, UK
2013 WIDER THAN A POSTCARD Breezeblock Gallery, Portland OR, USA
2012 5TH BIRTHDAY SHOW Signal Gallery, London, UK
2012 UP CLOSE Signal Gallery, London, UK
2012 PICKS OF THE HARVEST Thinkspace gallery, California, USA
2011 The Biscuit factory, Newcastle, UK
2010 5 YEAR ANNIVERSARY SHOW Thinkspace California, USA
2009 GRIFTERS Lazarides Gallery, Rathbone Place, London, UK
2009 OPS EXHIBITIONS Stadtgallerie, Stadtbibliothek and Lagerhalle Osnabrück, Germany
2008 LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL – LIVERPOOL INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS EXHIBITION @ NOVAS CUC, UK
2008 GAZE portraiture exhibition, Derby City Museum and Art Gallery, UK
2008 THE AFFORDABLE ART FAIR London, UK
2007 Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, UK
2007 View Two Gallery, Liverpool, UK
2007+6 LILLE BANDE DESSINEE FESTIVAL France
2006+7+8 COMIC EXPO Bristol, UK
2006+7 SALON DE LA BANDE DESSINEE ET DES ARTS GRAPHIQUES Roubaix, France
2005 AMADORA COMICS FESTIVAL Portugal
2005 COMIC EXPO Brighton, UK
2004 THE LONDON ART FAIR UK
2001 ROYAL SOCIETY OF PORTRAIT PAINTERS Mall Galleries, London, UK
SELECTED PRESS, MEDIA + WEB
2014 Understanding Contemporary Art
(Web lecture series by John David Ebert)
2013 Rooms Magazine (10-page feature)
2013 Art Of England Magazine
2012 BBC Radio live interview w/ Aleena Naylor on Caravaggio. When a controversial cache of supposedly new works turned up in Italy, Emma Tooth was invited to talk about one of her favourite artists.
2012 BBC Radio interview w/ Andy Potter
2010 HiFructose.com (studio visit feature)
2009 BBC Radio interview
2009 BBC online interview
2009 The Metro
2008 Newsnight Review
2008 KERA Maniax (Japanese)
2008 BBC Radio interview w/ Claire Hamilton
2008 Imagine FX magazine
2007 KERA Maniax (Japanese)
2007 Imagine FX magazine
2006 Nord Eclair, Roubaix, (French)