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 (now UCA) 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. In 2023, the Royal Academy of Arts in London acquired a lightbox edition of Grand Tour ll: Homage to Soane (after Gandy) and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy also acquired this work along with its companion piece, Grand Tour: In Search of Soane (after Gandy). A complete set of her Tokyo Story series is held 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, and was also exhibited as a solo presentation at the Pingyao International Photography Festival, in Shanxi, China in September 2021.
In 2020 and 2021, the Coronavirus pandemic, and resultant lockdowns, necessitated working more locally. Frequent walks in the countryside where she lives in East Sussex resulted in a new 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.
Consisting of twelve digitally collaged photographic landscapes of East Sussex; each image representing a month of the calendar year, some of the works debuted with GBS Fine Art at Photo London in May 2022. She is presenting the complete series together for the first time in her solo exhibition Closer to Home at Lucy Bell Gallery in St. Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, from 11 Feb – 26 Mar 2023.
In 2022 she exhibited in a large international show in Dublin, For the Love of the Master: 25 Artists Fascinated by Piranesi, celebrating the impact of Piranesi on contemporary artists, 300 years after his birth. Her work was also included in a major exhibition Impossible Architectures, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, France, from 19 Nov 2022 – 19 Mar 2023.
Allchurch had a two person exhibition, Anne Desmet RA & Emily Allchurch – Conversations with Buildings, in the Belle Shenkman Room at the Royal Academy of Arts in London from 28 Feb – 20 Aug 2023, and in August to October 2023 she was commissioned by Towner Eastbourne to produce a public artwork, at billboard scale, for the art trail, Following Ravilious – Newhaven Views.
Photo London Magazine 2022 – Edition 72 (click on image to open Flipping-Book):