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West Suffolk artist Emma Bidwell says work exhibited at Royal Academy is 'greatest feeling'



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A young printmaker said she was ‘blown away’ to learn one of her pieces was to feature in the Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition in London this year.

A former student at King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, Emma Bidwell, 20, said she was amazed a print of her late grandmother had been chosen for what will be her biggest exhibition ‘by far’.

Miss Bidwell, from Lackford, near Bury, used the screenprinting technique to create the artwork showing her grandmother Phyllis Bidwell, from Thetford, who died in 2019, aged in her early 90s.

Emma Bidwell used the screenprinting technique for the print called 'Taken by Phillip'
Emma Bidwell used the screenprinting technique for the print called 'Taken by Phillip'

The Royal Academy’s exhibition this year will run from June 21 to August 21, and around 15,000 entries were submitted by artists around the country.

Miss Bidwell, a second year fine art student at the Norwich University of the Arts, said: “Everyone I have spoken to have all said it’s basically impossible to get in. I was totally blown away. I really did not think I would get in at all. I kind of did it to push myself a little bit and thought I would see how far I could get.”

She added: “That’s probably the greatest I have ever felt.”

Art student Emma Bidwell at work
Art student Emma Bidwell at work

She said seeing her piece, Taken by Phillip, in situ at the Royal Academy had been ‘absolutely amazing’.

The work is based on a photograph that captures her grandmother as a young woman giving a ‘flirty look’ to her husband, Phillip, who was on the other side of the camera.

Miss Bidwell said she wanted to remind people there was always somebody behind the camera as well as in front of it.

Emma Bidwell, from Lackford, at the opening event for the artists at the Royal Academy of Arts in London
Emma Bidwell, from Lackford, at the opening event for the artists at the Royal Academy of Arts in London

She also said the coronavirus pandemic had given her time to reflect, including on the ‘beautiful moment’ frozen in the photo taken by her late grandfather.

Miss Bidwell wants to go into art teaching ‘because I just love helping people and I love the effect my teachers had on me’.

She said Donna Marshall, her art teacher while at King Edward’s, was her ‘inspiration’.

The photo that inspired Emma Bidwell's piece
The photo that inspired Emma Bidwell's piece

“I don’t think I would have gone to uni to study art without her,” said Miss Bidwell, who intends to always practise printmaking.