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Cambridge University Library


Emma Copley has created a site-specific installation of painted portraits of women who currently work in all areas of the Department of Pathology at the University of Cambridge including laboratory managers, academics, cleaners, lecturers, administrators and technicians.

Her aim is to celebrate and address the representation of women working in all types of jobs in this department. After researching how many women work in the Department of Pathology, and what that work entails; she photographed a small selection of them and from these photographs created a series of 24 painted portraits. The portraits are painted in black paint on transparent Perspex and installed in a large window. The light coming in the window will allow the image to be seen, similar to images created in stained glass.

By creating these paintings that represent women carrying out all forms of labour in the department, she has intended to elevate these sometimes undervalued images of women and their job roles. By placing the portrait installation in between the existing memorial/commemorative bronze relief portraits of men, she wants to create visual connections between both sets of images, enabling the viewer to confront the visual representation of women in the department.

The title of this installation piece relates directly to Gerhard Richter’s 48 Portraits; a series of painted portraits of historic male figures made for the 1972 Venice Biennale. Richter was interested in the speechless language of pictures, where personalities become anonymous. This is something Emma is interested in also and wanted to make a point of with the title of this piece. By painting the portraits of these women in black and white and not including visual information that would point to their specific job role, she has given them this anonymity and the ability to be reimagined.

Emma Copley is an artist, art lecturer, and an administrator in the Department of Pathology at the University. Her work as an artist focuses on everyday life. Please visit her website for a view of her practice and examples of her work;

Free and open to all. Visitors must check in at the ground floor for a visitors pass and be escorted to view the art work. Large groups please call in advanceContact details are available on the Department of Pathology website.

This event is part of The Rising Tide: Women at Cambridge programme hosted by Cambridge University Libraries, and generously supported by Cambridge Assessment, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation, and the Friends of Cambridge University Library.

Access: This event has partial access.

Image: Emma Copley,

10.00 - 16.00 weekdays only