Australian artist Emma Kidd aka Benconservato creates ethereal, haunting, & beautiful works primarily using watercolour. Whilst also working in the mediums of photography, fabric, & the creation of various paper-dolls.
With Emma’s art existing in a surreal, often dark world were animals & monsters dance, menace, & frolic. Stylistically mixing the traditional art of Japan, with children’s illustration; and the Western fine art cannon.

Emma at work in her studio.

Born in the mid 1970s in Sydney, Australia; Emma spent her early years growing up in a family that was splintered by divorce early on, finding joy & solace in her teens through music & art. After high school Emma studied cooking, specialising in preserves & jam – a field which also inspired her nom de guerre, ‘Benconservato,’ which means “well preserved” in Italian. With Emma going on to create & travel throughout her adult life.

Wanting to get to know her better, we sent Emma some questions to answer over email.
Jump into her world, below…

Getting Acquainted

Name & D.O.B?

Emma Kidd

City, State, & Country you currently call home?

Currently in Sydney, Australia.

City, State, & Country you’re from?

Was born here.

A painting by Emma.

Please describe some memories – such as art, music, writing, friendships, adventures, study, romance, politics, film, travel, work, crime… anything really – from the stages of your life noted below:

* Your childhood:

Backflipping into a pool without actually knowing how to do it; walking amongst a group of adult at a party dancing and singing to “I Got You” (Split Enz); being allowed to listen to my Cassette Walkman at dinner when we went out; watching “Tommy” over and over again; asking my mother countless questions about music – “what are they doing in the road?;” flying to New Zealand for Christmas holidays to spend time with my Grandparents; being in love with singing “Starman”; my parents divorcing and me not noticing anything was wrong.

Emma as a kid.

* Your teenage years:

Being awkward; dancing classes multiple times a week; quitting dance when told I would never be good enough; going to concerts alone to see artists only I was interested in; being a fool at school, especially at the end; R.E.M; Lou Reed; Elvis Costello; P’J Harvey; D.A.A.S; TAFE art school; avoided drawing as much as possible.

Late teenager spending all my time in the inner west at movie theatres, vintage shops and markets.
Drove my drinking friends everywhere, especially on those cheap drink pub hopping nights.

A painting by Emma.

* Your 20s:

Still seeing music generally alone, festivals; Jeff Buckley at Coogee Bay Hotel; Cat Power in a dark RSL in Newtown; The Throwing Muses in a tiny pub in Annandale; Violent Femmes at the Enmore with all the old chairs smashed from people jumping on them; black wearing riot grrl; first trip alone in N.T.; Free Tibet; Italy; meeting the man I will eventually marry after much mutual emotional torture; first move to France.

A painting by Emma.

* Your 30s:

Married that French guy in Australia; met the creative director that I clashed with but I can credit her with making me realise I could actually draw; moved back to France; listened to a lot of Reggae and French music; teaching English in French companies to adults; Alain Buyse and screen printing with a collective; Moved back to Australia; hospitality again; markets and exhibitions on the side; baby.

Emma in her 30s.

* Your 40s:

Drawing; painting during naps; markets; those articulated creatures really making their presence felt; vinyl; art fairs; exhibitions; frustration with what a child brings with them, but can’t imagine what it is like without them now; yoga teacher training; France once a year still… until 2019… then, well you know.

Emma in her 40s.

* Your 50s so far:

An ongoing journey.
Still with that French guy.

A recent photo of Emma.

Personal motto(s)?

In the time it will take me to explain it to you, I could have just done it.

What role did toys play in your childhood?
… and any favourite toys you remember?

I had a teddy bear, which I still have.
Don’t recall anything that stands out as a toy I loved.
I did torture my mother with Donkey Kong.

Why do you go under the name “benconservato” for much of your art?
… and what does the word itself mean?

Benconservato means “well preserved” in Italian.

I went to cooking school in my 20s (missed that info in my run down) was going to be a chef who catered for special diets before all that stuff existed off the shelf; vegan, gluten free, dairy-free you name it, I explored it.
I ended up making jam… well preserved.
Kept the business name.

Creativity Questions

When & why did you first become interested in art, photography, & everything creative?
… and any pivotal moments / influences regarding each of them?

I can say I was always creating. I drew until I thought I couldn’t. I have no idea what happened there.
Photography and print making was my parachute.
Perfectionism is perhaps to blame for choosing the medium that can capture “perfectly.”

Influences: My life drawing teacher at TAFE Tony Mortimer, off his nut most of time I am sure (in an endearing inner city must get through the day teaching these bastards kind of way). Had us do two minute hold life drawings, get the flow and feeling not the perfection.

Meeting Luis Camnitzer (conceptual political artist). His studio was the photographic etching studio in Italy.
Gave me lots of little off hand life lectures.

Alain Buyse for his amazing spirit and experience as a master printmaker (screen printing).

If you had to explain your creative endeavors to some recently crash-landed aliens…
What would you tell them?

Those aliens… well I could tell them all my creatures are actually humans – scrambling, crushing, crowding physically and emotionally. Showing their ugly side or their true nature.

Who are some of your favourite musicians, artists, writers, & filmmakers?
…and what is it about their works that so inspire & move you?

In no order of love:

I cried as if it was my father that died, he is just part of my growing up landscape.

Pavement; The Beatles; Television (the band); Burning Spear; Lee Scratch Perry; Horace Andy and all the rest of those 70s reggae legends.
So much music…

Hayao Miyazaki: do I need to say why I love him? He is a force of nature.

Shigeru Mizuki: all that yokai love and political digs.

Wes Anderson & his stark pastel oddness and raw humans.

Peter Doig: this one is an odd one. I saw his work one day when I was in Paris and it was a bloody Tuesday when all the galleries are closed… except the one I found where his work was, it is amazing in real life, I couldn’t leave.

Brett Whiteley: it might be a Japanese influence and simplicity that creeps through his work… but I loved it from a teenager.

We are anime / manga geeks in our house… my favourite is One Piece, the oddness, the bringing down of despots and bullies.

I’ve met so many artists and I love them all for different reasons.

If people wanted to check out your stuff, work with you, or buy some of your wares – Where should they visit & how should they get in touch?

I sell on Etsy under benconservato.
I have a few things on Saatchiart and blue thumb, but honestly, I dislike spending my day putting stuff on the internet, I am my own worst enemy.
Email is good.

Any upcoming news, projects, or releases you would like to share?

I will also be Art Battling on Jan 29 2024 in Sydney.
Then I will be back with our little group of artists plus extras who exhibited at Mothership Studio over the weekend to do a show at Ambush Gallery (I think in Feb).

A painting by Emma.

Odds & Ends

If you could live in any place, during any historical era – When & where would that be?
… and why would you choose that time & place?

I think, maybe Tokugawa Era Japan, no Westerners… closed country.
My interests lie in seeing how that was.

What does God mean to you?

Well, I personally think it is good to have a religious education for cultural reasons. I had a religious schooling. I questioned and confronted them if they ever said anything against other religions.

I do think I believe something… it’s just not Christianity.

What are the top 3 items you own?
… and what is it about each of them that you so love?

I have attached a photo of (more than) 3 of my favourite inanimate objects:

They are all small, and nearly all from Japan.
Left to right back to front: A gorilla, a small painting on wood by Amanda Blake, a metal bell with a wooden head, a ceramic macaque shaped bell, Probably a Nara souvenir (deer); the red ceramic bell like a daruma, another small wooden souvenir like two wooden pieces together… and the wooden organically shaped, carved sculptural piece, by an artist I can’t recall, but was given to me by Alain Buyse when I left France.

The Japanese things remind me of a flea market I stumbled upon and they were all just in a box, jumbled together… I had to restrain myself from buying them all.
I gifted a few I bought…

I have a lot of books about Japanese folklore, art and such and I would probably end up with a suitcase of this kind of stuff instead of underwear or clothes if I had to leave my house fast.

In a fight between the following iconic Australian fictional characters: Snugglepot & Cuddlepie (book characters) Vs Agro (puppet & media personality) – Who would win?
… and why would they be victorious?

Snuggle pot and cuddle pie would definitely win, they would delegate to the big, bad banksia man and well…

The fight in all its glory!

If you had to sum Australia up in one object – What would that object be?
… why did you choose it?
… and how does it represent Australia, to you?

Not an object, but a bird – The Sulfur Crested Cockatoo.
He can speak for himself.

A Sulfur Crested Cockatoo as imagined by Emma, in paper doll form.

Please describe your last dream in detail…

My dreams at the moment are bumbling messes of travelling and waiting and mild oddness. Sometimes I have the not being able to see because it is too bright as I drive a vehicle about… But nothing extraordinary.
I’ve heard that all means no control…. Hummmm.

I had a strange dream where I walked into a room that seemed to be a part of a park with a whole collection of animals, I think mainly birds, that I assumed were dead and taxidermied.
I was outraged.
But then, they slowly started to move, they were somehow frozen in time and were actually fine.

Does sex change everything?

I guess sex changes things.

Of everything you have done so far, what would you most like to be remembered for?

I would rather be remembered as a good person rather than obsessing over the mark I have made elsewhere… I think.


All images supplied by Emma or sourced online.