Text by Irina Rusinovich
Renowned artist Emma Coyle is captivating audiences with her vibrant and graphic paintings that challenge traditional artistic conventions. Her unique style incorporates elements from advertising, magazines, and fashion, resulting in visually striking portrayals of stylish people. Having established herself in London in 2006, Emma Coyle’s technicolor paintings pay homage to the legacy of Pop Art while also breaking new ground. Departing from the historical conventions of the movement, Coyle utilizes bold contours and pastel palettes to depict her subjects, who exude self-assuredness while posing for the viewer. Notably, her work counters the long-standing influence of the male gaze by presenting dignified and fashionable women who reclaim their narrative.
In this exclusive interview, we aim to delve into Emma Coyle’s creative process, the inspiration behind her art, and the challenges she faced in redefining traditional notions of female representation.
How has your fascination with 1960s Pop Art influenced your artistic journey over the past 20 years?
Initially, it was the ‘look’ that first intrigued me. I have a strong interest in many art movements, but the impact of bold colours and even the size of some of the works which were created in the 1960s really interested me. In particular, James Rosenquist’s larger-than-life paintings and the soft sculptures of Claus Oldenberg.
Over the years I chose different themes to work with but kept a Pop Art style, images from Hollywood’s Silver Screen or Japanese advertisements of the 1920’s. In recent years I have chosen to contemporise Pop Art using current print media advertising images as my starting point. Returning to what first inspired Pop artists, an interest in using imagery that is familiar and current to create art.
Can you tell us more about your recent solo exhibition titled ‚The Best Revenge‘ at the Helwaser Gallery in New York? What was the inspiration behind the artworks showcased?
The Helwaser Gallery exhibition was a real turning point for me, to exhibit with such an accomplished gallery on Madison Avenue. The paintings on exhibit represented a growth in my studio work. A few years prior I had challenged myself to work on larger canvases, and experiment more with colour and compositions. Some of the work featured for the first time, off-centred figures, white painted backgrounds that contain small amounts of pigment, and collaging images together on the canvas.
Copyright | Emma Coyle
How do you approach combining contemporary fashion magazine imagery and advertisements with traditional painting techniques to create your figurative work?
Preliminary work is especially important to each of my paintings. I constantly collect print magazines and every few years start tearing out hundreds of images. I spend months drawing and tracing, manipulating images, and combining groups of images together. Minimizing details and considering the possibilities of which colours to use can be a long process. Although an extensive amount of work is done before I move to the canvas, I can still mix paint on the canvas or rework lines throughout the painting process.
Could you share your experience of being represented by various galleries in London, such as Arte Globale, Contemporary Collective, and The Marylebone Gallery? How has this exposure contributed to your artistic career?
Expanding my audience has always been my drive for working with galleries. I have been very fortunate to work with some incredibly supportive galleries in London. Their continual hard work promoting my paintings online or including work in exhibitions has helped me to focus on the studio side and further develop my paintings.
Copyright | Emma Coyle
Congratulations on receiving the International Art Market’s Gold List award. How has this recognition impacted your artistic practice and reputation in the art world?
Awards have a significant impact on any artist’s career and encourage you to work even harder. Whether an artist’s artistic drive is to achieve awards or they are received as nominations, the results are helpful to achieving international attention. The Gold List Award helped me to create sales, have work acquired by renowned collectors, and also helped achieve solo shows internationally.
How do you incorporate ideas of abstraction, minimalism, and negative space into your figurative paintings?
These are three very important aspects of my figurative paintings. They are aspects achieved in my preliminary work for each piece. When making drawings for months on end, my main focus at this stage is to minimalize chosen images.
I want to almost flatten each figurative form as much as possible by taking away line work. By focusing on creating negative space and abstract space within each drawing it creates a minimal form.
Can you tell us more about your previous exhibitions in Ireland and the recognition you received as a promising new artist? How has your work evolved since then?
I received huge interest and support for my work in Ireland when I graduated in the early 2000’s. I was awarded funding, I had a solo show in Dublin’s Central Bank and I also exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy. My work was picked up by newspapers and I enjoyed the success of my early paintings.
My work has hugely changed over the years and has steadily evolved each year from my dedication to my studio work. I find my colour pallet constantly changes, the work is still very painterly, being able to see brush strokes on the canvas or paper. The themes of my painting series have changed throughout the past twenty years and the size of my paintings on canvas have grown. My recently completed one year painting project titled ‘Collective Selection ’ reached 366cm/144inches, the largest painting to date. My studio work progresses because of my interest in challenging myself in the studio.
We’d love to hear about your ongoing painting series ‚Sw16‘ based on contemporary print media images. What concepts or messages are you exploring through this series, and how do you hope viewers will interpret your artwork?
My ‘Sw16’ series is currently represented by Covent Garden’s Arte Globale Gallery. The paintings are very bold, bright and exciting. ‘Sw16’ series is a continuation from my ‘12.16’ series which is represented by Helwaser Gallery in New York. This new series is again exploring the use of colour, line work, and composition. When I am working on a painting or in a series I do not think of the narratives within the painting. This is something I leave to the viewer. For me my paintings are about the act of painting, composing a visual on a canvas or paper.
Thank you, Emma and good luck with your artistic endeavor!