Art Class: Emma Coulter and Zoe Kirkwood


Emma Coulter and Zoe Kirkwood are two Australian artists and friends living and working in New York. Currently showing at Brooklyn’s Chasm Gallery, they’re a shimmering example of creative collaboration between friends. Since discovering each others work online, the women have inspired and supported each other from development, exploration, and execution of their work.  Z3

Tell us about how you met and why you feel your practices work so well in tandem with one another.
Emma: Being located in different Australian cities, we first discovered each other’s practices through social media. Then when Zoe was in Melbourne one time, she came to my studio for a visit and we got chatting. Though our work is quite different, we both have expanded painting practices and found a connection through our chromo-spatial approaches to making.

Zoe: We actually met on Instagram! I think what initially sparked the interest in each other’s work, and why it works so well together, is that we are both exploring spatial elements within our respective painting practices, albeit in very diverse ways, with colour as a central component.


How has your experience exhibiting in NY been different to exhibiting in Australia?
E: The concern of making site-specific work is central to my practice, so it was tricky to plan for the exhibition, having not viewed the space, as that is always typically a central part of my process. Exhibiting overseas always brings the challenge of transport and/or obtaining materials locally when you are unfamiliar with the supply chain. Luckily I had gone through this experience one before, in Berlin, so I was able to draw on some of that knowledge. I made some of the work in Melbourne, and then made a site-specific piece when I arrived. It’s always exciting to exhibit in a new city, and test out ideas to new audiences.

Z: I’ve definitely discovered that my practice isn’t as readily transportable as I first thought! I’ve had to work on making things more compact-able and it has opened questions of how I might go about making more work in situ with future projects. But other than that the experience has been quite similar, complete with all of the same last minute trips to the hardware store to get final fixings!


How have you two found working together, has it reinforced things about your own practice?
E: When I first met so Zoe I was impressed by her multi-skilled practice; from painting, to wood turning, to resin and acrylic sculpture, her work was so technically diverse. We were both experimenting with the idea of the spatiality of painting in different ways. She also struck me as being incredibly lovely and down to earth, and someone who I’d love to work with.

Z: Emma is amazingly generous and has a real sense of professionalism that I can only hope to emulate! I think nowadays with the rising trend within the art world towards collaborative projects, being able to work with other people is a really important skill that you need to have within your practice.


Have you been to any cool exhibitions while in New York?
E: I have been to lots of great galleries and shows, but the highlight so far has definitely been visiting an installation of Sol Lewitt, Carl Andre and Dan Flavin’s work at Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea. I’m also looking forward to heading upstate to visit Dia: Beacon, as I’ve heard from very good sources that the collection there is amazing!

Z: I’m a total tourist! I have been to a lot of the major public galleries here in NYC and was lucky enough to have a quick side trip to Washington where I raced through just about every one of the Smithsonian museums! I haven’t done the Chelsea galleries yet but am really keen to see Devin Troy Strothers’ Space Jam show at Marlborough Chelsea.


Any other noteworthy experiences while you’ve been here?
E: I’ve been to NYC a few times before, but this is my first time staying in Brooklyn. I was lucky to find a great loft apartment here to stay in with some lovely local girls which is very cosy and a lot of fun! It has been freezing and being a typical Aussie ‘summer’ girl this is my first experience of snow! Whilst we were installing the exhibition there was a massive blizzard here and the subway and the roads were shut down, so things were a bit crazy there for a bit….which made getting paint supplies interesting! Everyone was panicking and going crazy buying up food in the grocery stores. Perhaps not your typical NYC experience!

Z: The whole experience has been fantastic.  I’ve never travelled to the States before and I don’t know if it’s just the accents but there have been so many moments here where I’ve felt like I’m in a movie… including walking past Peter Dinklage casually talking on the phone in Manhattan.


What’s next? Do you have any upcoming shows or projects?
E: I have my first Australian commercial solo exhibition, Chrominance, with Anna Pappas Gallery in Melbourne, scheduled for May, which is very exciting. I plan to create some immersive site specific works in combination with a series of paintings and three dimensional works.

 Z: I have an upcoming show at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space from 29 May – 4 July.  I’m also going to be working on some projects that will be happening in Adelaide later in the year when I get back to Australia.

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