Emilia Telese (b. Italy, 1973; lives and works in Reykjavík) is an award-winning Italian artist, writer and academic. She graduated in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence in 1996. She moved from Italy to the UK in 1997 and to Iceland in 2018.

Emilia Telese's practice spans several art forms, including painting, drawing, interactive and body-responsive technology, film, live art, installation and public art. She's exhibited worldwide since 1994, including at the Venice Biennale, the Louvre, TATE Britain, the Royal Festival Hall London, Ars Electronica Linz Austria, ZKM Karlsruhe Germany, the Freud Museum, London and many more major events and galleries.

Alongside her practice, Emilia Telese holds a doctorate from Loughborough University (UK) School of Social Science and Humanities, focused on artists’ livelihood and their role in society and the economy in the UK since the 1980s. She has been an activist and advocate for artists' working rights since the early 2000s, representing artists at UK and European level, such as The Arts Council of England, CCSkills, and the Paradox Fine Arts European Forum. 

Often site specific, Telese’s work deals with conscious engagement, political and social debate, non-verbal communication and the questioning and deconstruction of behaviour.

Discussing her work, she says: "I have been interested in visual, body-and behaviour-led communication in society since the start of my art practice. I believe that Art should not provide answers, but instigate questions and change lives through continuous conversation.  I seek to manifest the visual representation of these questions, and the deconstruction of society’s clichés. My work is concerned with challenging social constraints and conventions in as many ways as possible, using human nature, the body and technology as well as classic techniques. One of the focuses of my PhD at Loughborough was to talk about the role of the artist in society. Apart from how society looks at artists and vice versa, there are also intrinsic roles to do with the inner motivations and drive that characterises artists. Akira Kurosawa maintained that the role of the artist is to not look away. This is one of my favourite quotes, because to me, "not looking away" also means not shying away from the deep, political and human meaning and purpose that art can have, as well as noticing the details that others miss, which I as an artist feel need to be looked at and depicted.”

Current projects include, among others, Heimsàlfa, a video performance installation for Michelangelo Pistoletto’s World Rebirth Day on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland and ArtStops, a public art project placing contemporary art on bus stops in and around Durham, supported by Arts Council England.

She is currently working on a solo exhibition in Sheffield and a book retrospective for the first 20 years of her arts practice.


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