In this sculpture, a carved face emerges from a slab of ancient quartzite that is part polished and part unadulterated. Created by contemporary British artist Emily Young, this work’s balance of elegantly carved contours and raw edges marries the archaic with the present moment. The jagged unfinished edges are intentional as Young embraces the faults, veins, and splits in the materials as they tell the story of wind, water, and temperature across geological time. Using the human face, Young reflects the viewer back to themselves, encouraging contemplation, recognition and a meditation on humanity. In so doing, Young speaks to the past and implores a reimagining of our future.
Emily Young, acclaimed as “Britain’s greatest living stone sculptor,” creates works that meditate on time, nature, and memory. Young’s use of traditional carving skills allied with technology, where necessary, allows her to produce timeless works which marry the contemporary with the ancient. Young’s sculptures investigate humanity, natural beauty, and geological history. Referencing ancient Greek sculpture, Young’s contemporary hellenic sculptures evoke a sense of timelessness. The primary objective of her sculpture is to bring the relationship of humankind and the planet into closer conjunction. Her approach invites the viewer to comprehend a commonality across deep time, geography and cultures. Harnessing the energy and vitality of stone, Young’s sculptures propel us towards the future of a vast unknowable universe.
Emily Young was born in London in 1951 into a family of writers, artists, politicians, naturalists and explorers, including her grandmother the sculptor Kathleen Scott, who worked with Auguste Rodin. As a young woman, she worked primarily as a painter, studying briefly at Chelsea School of Art, Central St Martins in London and Stony Brook University, New York. She left London in the late 60s and spent the next years traveling widely, studying art and culture. It was her travels through Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, the Middle East that influenced her transition from painting to sculpture.
In the early 1980s, she started carving stone, preferring to use discarded materials from abandoned quarries. “I claim the Archaic Greek sculptors as my teachers, my guides. Look in, to your mind and heart, look out, to the star-studded night sky, and keep looking. It’s the only thing that begins to make sense.”
In 2013, Emily Young’s exhibition in Venice, We are Stone’s Children, led Financial Times’ critic Jackie Wullschlager to proclaim her ‘Britain’s greatest living stone sculptor.’ Her other public installations include The Metaphysics of Stone, a series of monumental heads made from ancient stone exhibited in Berkeley Square Gardens and The Sun King Dreams of Peace, a 3.5 tonne carved head in St. James’s Park in London.
A passionate conservationist, she also takes her work to the front line of environmental activism. Her last big project, Weeping Guardians, entailed her creating several 12 tonne statues with beautifully carved faces and then lowering them to the Tuscan sea floor in order to prevent illegal trawling along the coastline.
Young’s work is in important public and private collections throughout the world. She has exhibited at many prestigious museums including: The Getty, Los Angeles; The Imperial War Museum, London; The Whitworth, Manchester; The Meijer Sculpture Gardens, Grand Rapids; and, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In addition, her work has been featured in gallery exhibitions and international art fairs such as Bowman Sculpture, Gallery Mare at KIAF 2015, The Fine Art Society at Art Central in 2015.
Young divides her time between Italy and the United Kingdom.