Emile Rafael is a filmmaker and artist. Based in the Bussey Building, he shares a studio with sculptor Malathie de Silva, and David J East; another professional filmmaker who shares Emile’s love of painting.

How long have you been based in the Bussey Building?

I’ve been here for 6 months now and absolutely love it.

What do you do?

I make short films, commercials and I paint abstract portraits. I’m also working on a sculpture project.

Do you share the studio?

Yes, with the awesome David J East; a film director and a painter too, and Malathie De Silva who makes amazing sculptures.

How do you find the shared studio dynamic?

It’s wonderful. David and I work in similar mediums, so it’s a great environment to share what we do. The filmmaking process can be quite an insular experience as you need to write a lot, develop concepts and deal with the production aspect of it. It’s a much nicer balance to share ideas and trials that we go through. It’s also inspiring working next to someone whose work you admire.

Peckham Festival is an annual community event that you took part in last year by opening up your studio with David. How did the event go for you?

It was a really beautiful, great experience. A lot of people came by. We had some great conversations, made some new friends, met other Bussey residents and sold some prints. Couldn’t have gone better.

What made you decide to paint?

I had a strange start to the year; I applied for my British passport and, as part of it, they took all my travel documents and I became home-bound for 5 months. Most of my film work is shot outside of the UK. So I was sitting around with nothing to do and bought a little set of paints and a canvas and it was suddenly as if I ignited some sort of fuse in my head. All these painting ideas I never knew I had started pouring out and I’ve painted almost everyday since. It opened this whole new world to me.

What materials do you use?

I use oil paints mostly.

The faces are a focal point and yet have been ‘removed’ in a lot of the images, is there a reason for this?

The first painting I did was copying this blurry, slow-shutter image I took of someone and I really liked the feeling it gave me. I think our brains are wired to perceive, construct and compartmentalise a face as soon as we see one. So when one is absent, it evokes something in the viewer. I also think it represents the emotional landscape of the person whose portrait it is.

Lots of pinks, blues and purples pop up in your palette. Where do you get your colour inspiration?

I look at old photographs I took and I just get inspired by whatever setting and light they were shot in. Then I print them and my printer is usually very low on ink, so it prints these really vivid washes of colours which I really like, then I copy that.

What 15 songs are on your studio playlist?

Usually it’s pretty emo, here is one with some heavy The National rotation:

I also listen to minimal dark electronic techno music when I paint. Here is that mix for my studio

Follow Emile on Instagram or view the archive of films, paintings and prints on his website.