It is the creation of likeness which fascinates me; a glint of gold in the shadows, the flicker of an eyelid, the shimmering pulsation of nerves under skin... likeness is always at the centre of my work.

Using the historically-loaded medium of oil on canvas I set out to create jewel-like treasures, like altar pieces or icons intended for personal devotion. I relish the glowing transparency and texture of oils and seek to create a feast of surface texture which can only truly be appreciated close up.

Humans relate to images of of other humans, particularly faces, on a visceral, subconscious level; this is why portraiture is especially powerful and relevant. After layers of meaning and concept are stripped away, that relationship remains.

SELECTED COLLECTIONS/ COMMISSIONS/ AWARDS

2022 'Reimagining Paul'. Commissioned to reimagine the apostle Paul in a large painting to be displayed in a number of cathedrals and spark discussion about the nature of masculinity and the reception of biblical texts.

2020 Commissioned to create the short film ‘A Room of One’s Own’ in collaboration with filmmaker Owen Tooth by Disability Arts Online during the first UK Lockdown.

2020 Commissioned to create a portrait of Rhoda Bennett for the collection of the University of Leicester to celebrate International Women's Day.

2018 Commissioned to create a portrait of Olive Banks for the collection of the University of Leicester to celebrate International Women's Day.

2014-16 Commissioned to create ‘New Friends for Alathea’ for the UK's Ingestre Collection (along with a short documentary film on the project) using BAME young people as models to make the rest of the collection more accessible to modern audiences.

2012 Derby Museum & 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. Tooth worked with multi-aged members of the local community and used them as her models.

2008 Awarded Arts Council funding to begin and tour her successful series ‘Concilium Plebis’.

2004 Awarded Arts Council funding to experiment with underwater photography for the ‘Ophelia’ series.

2001 Derby Chamber of Commerce acquires a Tooth painting for their collection.

SELECTED MEDIA

2014 Understanding Contemporary Art (American lecture series)
2013 Rooms Magazine (10-page feature)
2013 Cultural-Discourse.com
2013 Art of England Magazine
2012 HiFructose.com
2012 Juxtapoz.com
2012 BBC Radio live interview with Aleena Naylor discussing Caravaggio
2012 FirstThursdays.co.uk
2012 BBC Radio interview with Andy Potter
2010 ArrestedMotion.com
2010 Juxtapoz.com
2010 HiFructose.com (studio-visit feature)
2009 TheGuardian.co.uk
2009 BBC Radio interview
2009 BBC online interview
2009 The Metro
2008 Newsnight Review (3/10/08 Liverpool Biennial special)
2008 KERA Maniax (Japanese)
2008 BBC Radio interview with Claire Hamilton
2008 Imagine FX magazine
2007 KERA Maniax (Japanese)
2007 Imagine FX magazine

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 & Art Gallery
2009 CONCILIUM PLEBIS The CUBE, The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle
2009 CONCILIUM PLEBIS Sandford Goudie Gallery, The Customs House, Tyne and Wear
2004 Michael Naimski Gallery, London

SELECTED GROUP SHOWS

2018 HERE/NOW Lawrence Alkin Gallery, London, UK
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, 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 at NOVAS CUC, UK
2008 GAZE portraiture exhibition, Derby Museum & Art Gallery, UK
2008 THE AFFORDABLE ART FAIR London, UK
2007 Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, UK
2004 THE LONDON ART FAIR UK
2001 ROYAL SOCIETY OF PORTRAIT PAINTERS Mall Galleries, London, UK

BOOKS + ESSAYS

2021 Our 100: One Hundred Years of Change curated by Elizabeth Blood, University of Leicester
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 Tooth's Painting, The Captive'. 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.


BIOGRAPHY

One of the most exciting artists working in portraiture today (1), Elizabeth Emma Tooth exhibits her breathtaking (2) oil paintings all over the UK and abroad and was recently commissioned to create two new portraits of notable women of the past for the University of Leicester. Before that she was proud to create a new painting for the historic Ingestre Collection - their first in over 80 years, the first by a woman and the first representing BAME people.

She is best known for her extraordinary portraits of ordinary people entitled 'Concilium Plebis' and her painting 'The Captive' commissioned by Derby Museum and Art Gallery. 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’s featured in Japanese streetstyle magazines (3), on BBC Radio discussing Caravaggio and exhibited at dozens of galleries and museums - as well as former-dungeons, tattoo conventions and derelict buildings. An occasional art tutor and manikin, she’s modelled for other artists, photographers and once, an 'alternative' clothing company. She then created the enigmatic art book 'From Pigfarmers and Showgirls' and succeeded in perplexing almost everybody.

In 2013 Tooth exhibited alongside Basquiat, Picasso, Keith Haring, Blek le Rat, Swoon, Banksy and many more at an "Unprecedented international Urban Contemporary event” in Paris. According to the press-release, the Drouot Digard Urban Contemporary Auction offered “fans and buyers alike access to the global legends of art” with “An unparalleled sale offering the most comprehensive catalogue of street art ever seen to date."

In 2010 she mixed her dignified and reverent (4) paintings of ‘chavs’ and ‘hoodies’ in with those of the 18th Century master Joseph Wright of Derby - then filled the museum with breakdancers back-flipping among the priceless works of art. Later her paintings inspired the acclaimed street-dance shows Council of The Ordinary and Tribal Assembly by international bboys Bad Taste Cru.

Tooth hadn’t envisioned then that 8 years later when Wright was celebrated with an interactive memorial Star in his home city she would have the honour of unveiling it (in Rococo costume, of course). 

After she gained Arts Council funding to start the Concilium Plebis project and The Guardian suggested it was worth seeing (5), she toured her work extensively for several years from 2008 under the name Emma Tooth. She exhibited with Lazarides gallery in two solo shows and in the 'Grifters' group show (alongside Antony Micallef, Faile, Jonathan Yeo etc). She was 'Featured Artist' at the 2012 Picks of the Harvest show at Thinkspace gallery, California, where she appeared in another of her Rococo gowns and was described as 'The shining star of the night' on HiFructose.com.

At the 2008 Liverpool Biennial a selection of her paintings were 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'), 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 and Mam Tor publishing. She had once cherished a dream of becoming a comic book artist, she even worked briefly in a comic shop as a teenager, where she soon discovered her aptitude as a Cambridge tourist-attraction far outstripped her abilities on the till. But it was fated that the world of comics should eventually come to her, and Event Horizon was published in English and Italian and won Best Graphic Novel at SciFi London 2006. Tooth’s paintings were so good people often expected her to be a man and she toured the UK and France for myriad book-signings and comic conventions over the next few years, drinking with such luminaries as Simon Bisley and Glenn Fabry. French artist Barkmann even created a character - Madame Geist - inspired by Tooth'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 Elaine Davidson (8), who she later painted in the guise of 'Watchmaker'. At the previous year's event Tooth was interviewed on ITN and edited so severely that she came across as quite mad.

She posed underwater in her Rococo splendour as Ophelia. Twice. And one afternoon in Kyoto she respectfully donned the priceless 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 simply irresistible.

Over the years she’s appeared in endless obscure magazines and blogs, (many now long gone) even serving occasionally as cover-girl (10). She has also appeared larger-than-life on BBC Bigscreens in Derby (2009) and Liverpool (2008).

She is the woman with 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 Victorian gown created by her dearest friend the couturier Olivia Barnard-Firth, better known as The Wicked Lady (13).

While still at University, Tooth exhibited with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, created a monumental 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 Bulgarian for several years, briefly fronted a (thoroughly dreadful) band and also during this period 'brushed off' (15) a large garage bill, painting murals of classic cars in payment.

The artist and her home have featured in lifestyle magazines praising her “seemingly endless creativity” (16) for as well as creating her own unique clothes, she collects and revamps antique clothes and Victorian beadwork 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 evidence every which way." (17)

She started making her own clothes on a 1900’s Singer machine around the same time she began to paint, and is self-taught in both respects. She described her art education in Rooms magazine: “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” (18).

Born in Cambridge, now living in rural Derbyshire, Tooth cordially hated her school years but enjoyed writing very long essays and was known variously to her schoolfellows as "The Black Widow" and "Tank Girl" (19) due to a somewhat dramatic haircut she sported throughout her teens and 20's. She scored triple A's in Art, Photography and Media Studies at A-level, and scooped a special commendation for her “Degree-standard” final exhibition.

Never what you might call a ‘people-person’, her earliest memory is of running away from home. She was later found chatting with a large black crow who pecked gently at the buckles of her shoes. Since then the reclusive artist has come to the rescue of many birds - especially chickens - and is never happier than when in their company.

NOTES

(1) "Elizabeth 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
(2) "Breathtaking... Incredible... Such a fine artist" - Aleena Naylor / BBC Radio Derby
(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... Elizabeth 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. Elizabeth was contacted by the Trisha team and invited to appear on the show discussing her black wedding. She agreed (just so she could say she had really 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 facility 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.
(8) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaine_Davidson
(9) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geisha
(10) Obscure publications… including covers and features in vampiric lifestyle magazine 'Chronicles' circ. 2002 and the dubiously-named Norwegian dark music magazine, 'Rimfrost' in 2003, Nord Eclair, Roubaix, (French) 2006, Graphotism 2008, Blancopop.com (Spanish) 2010, Eyezine 2011, www.20minutos.es (Spanish) 2012, TheFlyingFruitbowl.co.uk 2013, to name just a few.
(11) Imagine FX Magazine, Aug 2008, Feature p.71.
(12) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1523353/?ref_=nm_knf_i2
(13) 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) The now sadly defunct art journal Rooms magazine, issue 12, 2013
(19) Interview with Alice Doyle for Sequential Tart 01/05/07 http://www.sequentialtart.com/article.php?id=492