Programme: Painting - MFA; Painting - BA (Hons)

Year: 2005; 2003

Gemma Coyle graduated from Painting - BA (Hons) in 2003 and Painting - MFA in 2005. She has won numerous awards and has exhibited widely including London and representing the UK in the Mediterranean Biennale of Young Artists, Thessaloniki. She is self-employed and has been working as an arts specialist since 2004.

Alongside her fellow ECA graduate Aimée Bogacz, Gemma set up a contemporary art class for young people called Fizzy Milk. Gemma has worked for many companies, community groups, councils, colleges and galleries. She is the Education Coordinator for the Friends of the RSA.

Tell us about your creative practice

The perturbing, complex, breathtaking, curious, wondrous and absurd world around us, as well as the variety of living forms on it, is the substance that feeds my imagination. I am constantly commenting on and trying to solve relevant issues within my works, either in day-to-day life or more serious global problems such as religious, political or environmental. I believe that humour is one human reaction that is capable of connecting everyone. It echoes a natural human response to issues of difficulty, i.e. – “you have to laugh…”, and through the serious and highly-crafted nature of my constructions, it often resonates with elements which are very dark and present within our lives.

I am self-employed and have been working as an Arts Specialist since 2004.  My friend and I set up a contemporary art class for young people called Fizzy Milk* while we were both studying our Masters. This initiative was happily supported by the ECA tutors and we even brought our group into Edinburgh College of Art to present a performance that they had choreographed.


The tutors created a supportive environment where you could follow your own path but still pushed your ideas and aesthetics. They also encouraged you to work with different departments so you weren’t limited as long as you were honest and true to yourself.

Gemma Coyle, 2003 Painting - BA (Hons) and MFA alumna

What did you like about Edinburgh College of Art?

The Painting course was perfect for my mentality. I was curious about all mediums and experimented a great deal. My work is not at all traditional; one of my MFA Degree Show pieces was an exploding donkey! The tutors created a supportive environment where you could follow your own path but still pushed your ideas and aesthetics. They also encouraged you to work with different departments so you weren’t limited as long as you were honest and true to yourself.

There were constant opportunities during my time at Edinburgh College of Art. Like invited artists coming in and visiting the studio (which was always beneficial), exhibitions organised both inside the College and externally, and awards and residencies which I was fortunate enough to receive.

Since I have left Edinburgh College of Art, my tutors have continued to be a great support, which I am hugely grateful for. I also enjoy catching up with the technicians and staff who work in the canteen who, even after 11 years, remember my name!

Chrysler Horse Drawn" by Gemma Coyle
Image courtesy of Gemma Coyle
Chrysler Horse Drawn by Gemma Coyle
Chrysler Horse Drawn by Gemma Coyle
Image courtesy of Gemma Coyle
Chrysler Horse Drawn by Gemma Coyle

What have been your biggest achievements since you graduated?

I was very proud of my first solo show in Edinburgh ‘FLEE with finesse’. It was one of my main pieces (‘Chrysler Horse Drawn’) from that exhibition that led to one of my biggest achievements - being selected as one of the “UK Young Artists” in 2011, and representing the UK in the Mediterranean Biennale of Young Artists, Thessaloniki.  It was a thorough selection process and I was competing against extremely talented artists. The exhibition in Greece took place throughout large warehouses beside the docks. It was fascinating meeting artists from all over the world and having an opportunity to discuss topical issues with them openly.

Alumni wisdom

I meet a lot of people who tell me that their child is very talented at art, however, they don’t really want them to pursue a degree in it, asking questions like "what do you do after?" But you only live once, and I know other people who hated the degrees they picked - it's a long time to spend on a course that you do not enjoy. I genuinely loved my time at Edinburgh College of Art. I spent more time in it than I did in my flat at the time, it just felt like my natural habitat.


Are you interested in studying Painting - BA (Hons) at Edinburgh College of Art?