Portrait photography by Beth Steddon, courtesy and copyright of artist Emily Kirby.


A B O U T  T H E  A R T I S T

There is a distinct feeling of tranquillity that exudes from Emily Kirby’s debut collection of paintings; women sit together in the grass, or by the water, talking, drinking, reading, dancing. There is an ease to their bodies, and a palpable sense of connection that exudes from each canvas. However, Kirby’s work isn’t simply about leisure, it runs deeper than that, capturing something delicately rooted in the intimacy of female relationships. Moreover, it is about queerness as entwined with nature and the importance of sanctuary for queer communities.

Painting from memory, each work is tied to a place of refuge for Kirby, who has lived in various countries across the world. From camping out in the North Island of New Zealand to late nights in the long grass of rural Sussex, from windy days by the water in Southern Spain to her birthplace of Zambia, these places conjure potent memories of gathering and relation – human and animal – that have shaped Kirby and her practice. Like these wild rural spaces, the paintings ask us to breathe, and invite a form of contemplative slowness like that of a daydream.

The figures have a subtle presence, not dominating the composition, but instead melding into their environment through the harmonious earthen tones and hazy brushstrokes. Despite the figurative nature of her works, there is an abstract sensibility at play – Kirby is not interested in being too representational, and instead strives to find a language that speaks to an atmosphere:

“I think that’s the really beautiful thing about painting, it’s another form of dialogue, a slowing down, leaning into the subconscious, and just letting it live.”