Next week emerging artists Emily Kirby and Mark Jeffreys will be collaborating for an art exhibition called ‘The Big Event’ at the Stoke Newington Gallery. The exhibition is an exploration into big events and actions, real and imagined, that affect the human spirit and change our perception of the world around us. In the run-up to the exhibition, we had a chat with Emily Kirby.
Can you tell us a bit more about the exhibition, is there a theme?
The Big Event exhibition is an exploration into the impact of large scale events and actions both real and imagined that affect the human spirit and change our perception of the world around us. Through the use of gesture, colour and form, the exhibition will be comprised of multiple works that challenge and celebrate the influence of large scale happenings on our psyche from the individual to that of a nation.
How would you describe yourself and your art practice in three words?
Bold, figurative and African.
Are there any particular inspirations that led to this exhibition?
Mark and I both wanted to use a relevant subject to explore. With the Olympic Games looming and other international happenings it led us to the subject of big events and how we feel about them.
It seemed like a good opportunity to work on such a current topic being both East London artists. There were multiple angles we could approach this subject from but we have created a body of work that is primarily suggestive of the possible impacts and reactions. My work is usually figurative while Mark’s work is predominantly abstract, however we have both used the opportunity to cross over and be influenced by each other.
How did the collaboration with Mark Jeffreys start, how did you meet?
I met Mark when I was living in the Arena warehouses in North East London. It’s a buzzing arts community, with studio space that comes with your room. Our studios were next to each other so we quickly struck up a friendship as fellow painters. This exhibition together is something we’ve both been planning for over a year now. He is a very knowledgeable painter and although our work is very different he has taught me a lot. I’m extremely excited to be showing with him.
Before on this blog, we read your diaries about your art practice in Zambia. What was the best part of your art experience, and exhibiting, there?
The whole experience of taking my work back to Zambia - the root of a lot of my inspiration - was amazing for me. The highlight was at the opening night when the second and third year art students from ‘Lusaka’s University’ poured into the gallery. It was a great opportunity for me to meet up and coming Zambian artists. The atmosphere was amazing. The work received a great response and the show was written up by several papers and magazines including the national newspaper ‘The Post’.
How would you say the art scenes of the UK and Zambia are different (or, perhaps, not that different at all)?
They are very different. Zambia has a very young art scene; although they have had some great artists come out of the country such as Henry Tayali, and Stary Mwaba the support for local talent is only recently growing. Materials are extremely expensive and access to the international art scene is only just becoming available via the internet. There are a handful of galleries in the capital Lusaka but I would say it is a difficult scene to break into for local artists. Saying all of that I think the International art scene is starting to pay more attention to emerging African artists. Zambia also has a growing middle class and the economy is growing with more foreigners moving in. Hopefully the art scene will reap the benefits along with increased support for artists.
What's next in the world of Emily Kirby?
I would like to continue growing as an artist at the rate I have been achieving so far. It takes time to establish yourself so I want to be patient and enjoy the journey. If I look at the experiences I’ve already had as a full time artist over the last three years, I feel extremely lucky. I would like to continue to exhibit internationally and break into some new scenes, whilst continuing to strengthen my exposure in Zambia and London. I would love to take my work to South Africa. Johannesburg has a really exciting art scene at the moment.
For anyone who wants to know more about the art scene in Zambia, Emily recommends this great article written by Elizebeth Watkin.