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East London 2012: Rosie Emerson

The Hackney-based artist chats to us about her four years in east London

PhotographyMorgan O'Donovan

In the May issue of Dazed & Confused, we asked some of east London’s artists and designers to join the debate: is east London dead? We now talk to versatile young artist, illustrator, photographer, print-maker, Rosie Emerson, about her experiences of east London and the changes in the local area, for better and for worse.

Dazed Digital:Who are you and what do you do for a living?
Rosie Emerson: My name’s Rosie Emerson. I am an artist – I make drawings, digital collages and paintings, and recently I have been working with photographers and making lifesize portraits of elongated women. I've also just joined The Print Club so will be making a series of screen prints too.

DD: Where in east London are you based?
Rosie Emerson: Hackney Wick, Fish Island.

DD: What first attracted you to the area and how long have you been working here?
Rosie Emerson: After I graduated from Kingston University in 2004, there was a bit of a mass exodus east, mainly because it was cheap, near the City and there were plenty of other creative people here. Most of my friends live here, so when I moved back to London it was the obvious place to be. I lived in Dalston for a year and was paying for both a shared warehouse and a separate studio, then moved to Hackney Wick as it was cheaper.

DD: How has east London changed since you've been here?
Rosie Emerson: I've been living east for four years; it’s just got busier and trendier. Shoreditch was the place to go for a beer and Dalston for a warehouse party, but now I don't often go out in either, at least not at the weekend. Both have got pricier too, rent-wise. Places like Broadway Market and 'Victoria Park Village' have seen massive changes, as has Dalston. Fish Island has a shop and two cafes now, and is set to see a whole lot more change – like a 5000 capacity nightclub! The markets down Brick Lane are so crowded they’re not that enjoyable anymore, but it’s not all bad – there’re still lots of great galleries, pop-up shows and other good stuff to go and do. The biggest change has been the gentrification of these area. Artists are brilliant at getting that ball rolling – the initial cheap rents in Shoreditch attracted artists, who made it an exciting and attractive place to be and live, but over the last ten years or so they’ve been priced out to make way for more architects and creative design studios and people who can afford it. Artist communities are by nature and default historically nomadic, and continue to move around east London and elsewhere.

DD: is the most exciting thing about your area?
Rosie Emerson: I love Hackney Wick. It is a bit odd – it is essentially an industrial estate, a strange derelict-looking village where only youngish creative people live, but it’s friendly like a village and that’s hard to find in London. The best part is the sense of community, neighbours that become friends. The walls are pretty thin so I often hear the sounds of people rehearsing plays or the sound of sewing machines. Making the kind of work I do can be quite isolating, so it’s great to be surrounded by people all creating and making stuff.

DD: Has the area informed your creative work?
Rosie Emerson: Definitely. I moved in to the Peanut Factory and met so many great creative fun people. I also got involved with organising the Hackney WickED arts festival, which led me to meet lots more brilliant artists. It's great to meet people – rather than them just saying what they do you can see it in their studio. This has led to great conversations about techniques and to collaborations with photographers and costume and graphic designers, and is also great when you run out of spray mount or need a drill or whatever too!

DD: Is it possible to say ‘Silicon Roundabout’ aloud without laughing?
Rosie Emerson: No.

DD: What's your favourite East End hangout?
Rosie Emerson: The Hackney marshes or Victoria Park – I go everyday with my dog, Prince.

DD: Does anything annoy you about the area?
Rosie Emerson: Rammed night buses full of drunk idiots, and drivers that don’t stop when there's clearly seats upstairs.

DD: What are you going to do during the Olympics – stay or flee?
Rosie Emerson: Flee – Hackney Wick is going to go mental! I really can’t see how London is going to cope transport-wise.

DD: Is east London dead?
Rosie Emerson: Just different. It totally depends where you are – there are plenty of cool places and people still, just lots of other people too, plus more olives and cappuccinos.

Dazed Digital invites you to map your east London memories on our timeline, 'A Secret History of East London'. Get involved HERE!