Framing Our Future Interview: Emma Copley

I am an artist based in East Anglia. I have a BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MA in Fine Art from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge School of Art where I graduated with a Distinction in 2017. I was one of 25 artists shortlisted in The Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize 2016 and was a semi-finalist in the Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year Award in 2015. I have shown my work internationally in exhibitions and fairs in the UK, the US, and Italy, including the ING Discerning Eye exhibition, Lynn Painter Stainers Prize, and The Other Art Fair London. I have completed work for exhibition, commission, advertising and publication including; commission for British Airways; solo exhibition at London’s Hospital Club; residency at Stephen Perse Foundation Cambridge, award winner Other Art Fair x Habitat Print Award; longlist Jackson’s Painting Prize 2020, commission Cambridge University Library to create a large painting installation see here, which was recently purchased and added to the permanent collection, Winner ASP Artists Surfaces Award in 2022.

What’s been the biggest driver compelling you to create works over the last couple of years?
I strive to make a living as an artist and make work that pushes me to explore new ways of displaying paintings, so both of those things are drivers for me in my artists practice. Being part of the artists support pledge (ASP) has helped me successfully sell paintings through instagram. Having my work selected by Matthew Burrows for the first in person ASP exhibition, A Generous Space, at Hastings Contemporary, created a demand for the paintings of wild swimmers I have been making for the past year. For the last year + I have had no studio, so have to make do with painting in the kitchen or at my work desk. This has determined the type of work I can make. I usually paint in oil on wood board. It has been a challenge to adapt to water based work on paper, but has driven me to experiment with my surfaces and create gouache and watercolour paintings that range from small to very large. In February 2022 I was awarded the Artists Surfaces Award by Artists Support Pledge for this work. (I am dreaming of building a studio in my garden one day, as renting one in the Cambridge/Newmarket area costs upwards of £170 per month for a space the size of an average desk! I cannot afford that.)

What advice would you give to artists just starting out?
Build a network of peers, join a studio group if you can, carve out time to make – no matter what.
Read: Make Your Art No Matter What by Beth Pickens.

Which artists are you watching right now?
Hiba Schahbaz, Rebecca Harper, Susie Hamilton, Ida Applebroog, Quilla Constance, Florence
Peake, Tai Shani, I could go on!!

What do you wish you had been told about navigating the business side of the art world?
I have had to learn most of it myself. My partner and I support our family equally financially, and since graduating from RISD in 2001, I have always had a job working to supplement my artists practice. Right now I work at Axis, a lovely UK art charity that supports artists. I wish I had been given a business studies for fine artists course as part of my undergraduate degree, it would have saved me a lot of time!

What works are you most excited about creating in the near future? / What’s coming up for you in 2022?

I will hopefully be creating some murals in 2022 around the subject of wild swimming and a new, HUGE Book of Love, that will be displayed in a gallery and opened up and closed by viewers.

Instagram: @emmacopleyart