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Emma Talbot wins the 8th edition of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women

Max Mara, Whitechapel Gallery and Collezione Maramotti are delighted to announce Emma Talbot as the winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women.

This prestigious prize supports UK-based female artists who have not previously had a major solo exhibition. Awarded in alternate years since 2005, it is the only visual art prize of its kind in the UK. As the winner Talbot will spend six months in Italy on a bespoke residency planned for later this year*, creating a new body of work to be shown in 2021 first at the Whitechapel Gallery and then at the Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Iwona Blazwick, OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, announced Talbot as the eighth winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women at a ceremony held at Whitechapel Gallery, London. She was chosen from a shortlist including Allison Katz, Katie Schwab, Tai Shani, and Hanna Tuulikki, by a panel of art-world experts comprising gallerist Florence Ingleby, artist Chantal Joffe, collector Fatima Maleki and art critic Hettie Judah, chaired by Blazwick.

Emma Talbot (b. 1969, UK) lives and works in London. Her work in drawing, painting, installation and sculpture explores the inner landscape of personal thought, emotion and narrative. These individual subjectivities are then cast into wider narratives, addressing prevalent contemporary concerns. Her work is often hand-drawn or painted onto silk or other textiles, and incorporates her own writing or quotes from other sources. It explores the personal as political, social politics, gender, the natural world, and our intimacy with technology and language.

Talbot’s winning proposal for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women questions deeply rooted positions of power, governance, attitudes to nature and representations of women, through an acutely personal lens. It takes as a starting point Gustav Klimt’s painting Three Ages of Woman (1905), which features a naked elderly woman standing in apparent shame. The painting is housed at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome and Talbot will have the opportunity to see it first-hand during her residency in Italy. In her work for the Prize, Talbot intends to animate the figure of the older woman as someone with agency, who overcomes a series of trials similar to The Twelve Labors of Hercules. Through her modern-day trials, Talbot will invest the woman with the potential to reconstruct contemporary society, countering prevalent negative attitudes to ageing.

During her bespoke six-month Italian residency, organised by the Collezione Maramotti and to be finalised later this year, Talbot will spend time in Rome, Reggio Emilia and Sicily to research classical mythology, textile craftsmanship and permaculture.

Beginning in Rome, she will be hosted for two months by prestigious research academy The British School at Rome. Particularly focusing on Herculean myths, she will research designs on Etruscan Pottery which are powerful conveyors of classical mythology.

Textiles are central to Talbot’s work and her stay in Reggio Emilia will offer a unique opportunity to acquire new skills in production. Here she will work with local craftspeople to learn Intarsia, a form of jacquard knitting used to create patterns with multiple colours, a technique which she will use in her final work. Thanks to several side trips to Milan, Como, Florence and Prato, she will also research traditions of painting on silk, primarily amongst Italian fashion houses and particularly focusing on futuristic 1960s prints.

In Catania, Sicily, Talbot will spend time exploring layers of history: visiting ancient archaeological sites and the volcanic terrain to inform a depiction of a landscape that may feature in the final work. She will learn about permaculture, a practice central to much Sicilian agriculture, which offers sustainable and ethical ways of living with the land. Throughout her time in Catania, she will gather material to immediately respond to in a studio, developing work alongside her research.

Emma Talbot said: “This prize comes at a crucial point that seems incredibly timely for me, as I have only recently began to focus fully on my own work, having for many years taken on teaching roles to support my family, as a single parent. The Max Mara Art Prize for Women will help me make the most of this major step. Just at the perfect time, this supportive and amazing opportunity to concentrate totally on my work, and undertake extended first-hand research, will be life-changing.”

Iwona Blazwick said: “Emma Talbot makes radiant drawings and polychromatic sculptures on an epic scale; and combines word and image to express the lyricism and the pain of subjectivity. We are all excited to see how the experience of Italy will impact on the visionary aesthetic of this year’s Max Mara Art Prize winner!”
Luigi Maramotti said: “I’m very proud of the long lasting association with the Whitechapel Gallery and the friendship that I have personally shared with its director, Iwona Blazwick. Emma Talbot crafted a very original project will hopefully leverage on the incredible potentials that Italy offers when it comes to deep-diving into art history, textile techniques and the diversity of territories: all elements crucial to her future endeavour. We are looking forward to welcoming her to Italy and Collezione Maramotti.”

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Written by Verónica López

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