Emily Gillbanks

BA (Hons) Fine Art, Class of 2020

I graduated from the Fine Art course at the University of Suffolk in 2020. Before graduating I was shortlisted for the BP Portrait Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, and I exhibited in the society of Women Artists Exhibition. 

I am technically from Essex, as my parents lived not far from Bures which is right on the Essex and Suffolk border. All of my education before my Masters was in Suffolk. When I went to middle school there was a Bures Essex and Bures Suffolk bus. What bus you were allowed to get on was dependent on which side of the bridge you lived on. 

I chose to study at Suffolk because of how small the course was and because of the impressive Fine Art studios. The studio spaces allocated to each student are extremely generous and well-lit. Studying at Suffolk also meant I could commute and stay living at home so I could save enough money from my part-time job of working in a hotel in Stoke-by-Nayland to do my masters.

My project More Than Real, which would have been exhibited in my degree show had it not been for the pandemic won the Global Graduate Design Fine Art People’s Choice Award. In the same year I graduated, I started my MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art in London. It was after accepting my place on this programme that I was fortunate enough to receive international support from the Elizabeth Greenshields foundation who awarded me two paintings grants to fulfil my studies at the Royal College of Art. Without this funding I would not have been able to relocate to London and accept my place on the programme. 

The first year of my MA was all online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, I built a studio in my parents back garden so I could carry on painting. 

During this time I made my Painting Three Things. This was exhibited in the Royal Society of British Artist’s Exhibition 2021 at Mall Galleries. It was also awarded the de Laszlo Medal for excellence. This is awarded annually to the best painting from life by a young artist aged 35 or under in the RBA exhibition. I also made my self-portrait Reflecting on Things which was shortlisted for the Self-Portrait Prize.

I’m now about to have my degree show at the Royal College of Art which takes place in Battersea. I was awarded the Fribourg Philanthropies Painting Prize 2022 for my degree show proposal, which has funded the paintings I have made for my degree show.  Alongside this exhibition I also have a painting exhibited at the Royal Overseas League in Park Place as part of the Royal Society of British Artist’s Rising Stars Exhibition where I have been shortlisted for a Rome Scholarship residency.  I supported my studies by working in hospitality 6 years prior to moving to London, and I have recently been working part-time at the Design Museum. This year I am working on my PhD applications, as well as continuing to make work in a London-based studio. 

The things I enjoyed the most about studying at Suffolk was having Dr. Matthew Bowman as my dissertation supervisor. The books he recommended in my one-to-one tutorials and support I received from him really helped me to contextualise my painting practice. I also met my best friend Chloe, who I painted. I still speak to her everyday!

"I chose to study at Suffolk because of impressive Fine Art studio space allocated to each student"

Emily Gillbanks