Emily Wolfe


A fleeting memory, or an imagined moment…[1]

An artist of absence and light, Emily Wolfe patiently paints time of day, the places where light falls and the trappings of wistful interiors. The faded, frayed and fragmented make their appearance here: lace, bird cages, nosegays, careful hand-work, uneven wallpapers, porcelain figures, isolated pieces of furniture and curtains with quiet, meandering prints of flora and fauna.

Partial doorways reappear, as do illumined windows veiled with fine, gossamer curtains. Wolfe often returns to the minutiae of light and shade as well as the fall and fold of materials such as creased tablecloths. Staged settings involved aged yet ordered rooms; paint is imperfect, often peeling and patterned wallpaper can be dog-eared and discoloured. These spaces are lived in yet vacated, marked by former presence whether it be a chair turned slightly askew, an unplugged heater or flimsy streamers left over from a birthday party. Some tableaux are almost menacing, depicting porcelain figures tied within plastic bags or lying dismembered as though victims of the intervention of a wilful child.

Smooth, these wintery still-life paintings are wrested from muted palettes in oil on linen. There is a sense of coolness and calm as carefully placed objects are meticulously rendered with exceptional skill against backgrounds sometimes simple and grey, sometimes florid and ornate. Mostly large-scale, there is a play between obscurity and light, between hushed tones and darkness. There are chalky, pallid whites, bone blacks and winsome pastels. Always attentive to tiny details, Wolfe has a gift for reproducing fine floral prints, light-absorbent wood, semi-transparent drapery and the shine of paint on china. Each work is highly finished, yet at the same time gives the illusion of betraying a lightness of touch. In-between moments and enigmatic circumstances are conjured up layer by layer; daylight is filtered through gauzy window coverings and enigmatic households are alluded to via strange objects.

The diaphanous, the translucent and the slightly transparent are specialties of Wolfe, as are reflections, refractions and shadows. Fleeting and often insubstantial fractions of time are depicted such as a curtain rising in a breeze or a birdcage door left ajar. The hidden and secret properties and powers of objects are briefly seized in these paintings. Quietude and pause are evoked, as are scenes haunted by unseen presences, shadows and time.


New Zealander Emily Wolfe (b. 1972) a full-time artist based in London, graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London with a Master of Fine Arts in 2000. Since then she has exhibited works in private galleries as well as public art institutions. Recent solo exhibitions of Wolfe’s work have taken place at Melanie Roger Gallery (Auckland) and Onetwenty Gallery (Ghent, Belgium) and Paige Blackie Gallery (Wellington). She has also exhibited in public institutions within curated exhibitions and group shows including Sleight of Hand (Suter Gallery, Nelson, 2010), Family Viewing (Trajector Artfair, Hotel Bloom, Brussels, 2010) and East End Academy, The Painting Edition (Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2009). Prominent collections such as the Gissings collection (London), M & C Saatchi (New Zealand) and the University of Auckland Art Collection include Wolfe’s work. Additionally she has been featured in publications such as Dick Frizzell’s It’s All About the Image (2011) and Painting: East End Academy (Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2009).  Emily Wolfe is currently based in Oxford, UK.

Emily Wolfe will exhibit new work at Melanie Roger Gallery in late May 2024.

[1] Emily Wolfe quoted by Josie Steenhart in ‘Emily Wolfe’s Collar 2 (2000). Adam Art Gallery, www.vuw.ac.nz/adamartgal/chartwell-essays/2001steenhart.html.

Selected Media.

    Radio NZ interview with Jim Mora
    Ginny Fisher, Viva
    Sam Eichblatt, Home magazine


  1. Emily Wolfe | The Good Oil Podcast
  2. Stockroom at Sapphire | Part of Artweek Auckland
  3. Virtual Auckland Art Fair 2020
  4. Stockroom at Sapphire | Part of Artweek Auckland
  5. An Occasional Rant | Female representation in New Zealand Galleries
  6. ART NEW ZEALAND Magazine texts