Emily Allchurch, born 1974 in Jersey, Channel Islands, lives and works in Hastings, East Sussex. She trained as a sculptor, receiving a First Class (Hons.) degree in Fine Art from the Kent Institute of Art & Design – Canterbury in 1996, and an MA from the Royal College of Art in 1999, where she began working with photography as a material. Since then, she has exhibited regularly in solo and group shows in the UK and internationally.
Allchurch uses photography and digital collage to reconstruct Old Master paintings and prints to create contemporary narratives. Her starting point is an intensive encounter with a city or place, to absorb an impression and gather a huge image library. From this resource, hundreds of photographs are selected and meticulously spliced together to create a seamless new ‘fictional’ space. Each artwork re-presents this journey, compressed into a single scene. The resulting photographic collages have a resonance with place, history and culture, and deal with the passage of time and the changes to a landscape, fusing contemporary life with a sense of history.
Although also available as prints, presenting the work as lightboxes maximises their theatricality, and creates a window into another world.
Her works are held in public and private collections worldwide, with a complete set of her Tokyo Story series in the permanent collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, with a further set in the collection of Fidelty in Tokyo. In 2020, the Museum of London acquired a lightbox version of Babel London (after Breugel) to go on permanent display, when it opens at its new site in West Smithfields in 2025.
In Summer 2018, she had a solo show, Visions of Architectural Fancy, at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, and in 2015 her solo show, Emily Allchurch: In the Footsteps of a Master, at Manchester Art Gallery, also toured to the Djanogly Art Gallery in Nottingham. Her Albert Square, Manchester (after Valette) lightbox, was created specially for the Manchester Art Gallery to coincide with this exhibition, and crowd-funded via the Art Fund’s ‘Art Happens’ scheme, and is held in the Gallery’s permanent collection.
In 2018, Allchurch was selected as one of six Finalists in the Columbia Threadneedle Prize for Figurative Art, with her lightbox, Babel Britain (after Verhaecht), which also won the Visitors’ Choice Award.
In 2017 she began a collaboration with Karin Weber Gallery in Hong Kong, launching Babel Hong Kong, at Art Central HK 2018, a project supported by an Arts Council England – British Council Artists’ International Development Award.
Assisted with funding through an Arts Council England ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ grant, she travelled extensively in mainland China and Venice in 2019, collating the necessary photographs to develop a new body of work, reflecting Marco Polo’s journey along the Silk Road and exploring narratives around mass tourism, globalisation, trade, and the parallels between both places. The resulting series, ‘Mirrored Cities’, was launched at Karin Weber Gallery, Hong Kong in October 2020.
Allchurch says now that when she embarked on this project in March 2019, she could never have imagined how uncannily poignant this subject matter would become one year later amidst the Covid-19 pandemic; her work capturing a moment in time, just before everything changed. She was grateful to receive further financial support from Arts Council England through the Emergency Response Fund in Spring 2020.
In September 2021, ‘Mirrored Cities’ was exhibited as a solo presentation at the Pingyao International Photography Festival, in Shanxi, China.
In 2020 and 2021, the Coronavirus pandemic, and resultant lockdowns, necessitated working closer to home.
Frequent walks in the countryside where she lives in East Sussex resulted in a new, as yet incomplete, series, ‘Closer to Home’ , which explores landscape management and control, the threat from development, invasive plant species and detritus, and more generally, how we interact with the landscape through tourism and recreation.