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Artist Emma Talbot begins 6-month residency in Italy. Whitechapel Gallery

Reggio Emilia: June – July 2021 Catania: August – September 2021 Rome: October – November 2021

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Artist Emma Talbot travels to Italy for residency organised by the Collezione Maramotti

27 May 2021 – Max Mara, Whitechapel Gallery and Collezione Maramotti are delighted to announce that Emma Talbot (b. 1969, UK), winner of the 8th edition of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women (2019-2022), will travel to Italy in June 2021 to begin her six-month residency organised by the Collezione Maramotti.  

The 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. The Prize provides the winner an opportunity to develop her career as an artist through a fully-funded, bespoke Italian residency, which will culminate in a solo exhibition featuring a new body of work to be shown first at Whitechapel Gallery and then at Collezione Maramotti in 2022. 

Due to the pandemic, Talbot’s residency could not take place in 2020, as planned. Pending travel restrictions and government advice, the artist’s residency will take her to Reggio Emilia, Catania and Rome from June to December 2021, allowing her to research classical mythology, textile craftsmanship and permaculture across treasured historic sites and institutions. 

Emma Talbot said: “This prize comes at a crucial point that seems incredibly timely for me, as I have only recently begun 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.”

Sara Piccinini, Collezione Maramotti Director, said: “Emma Talbot’s project takes mythology and art history as a point of departure for exploring new principles and practices that could help build a future society. We hope the immersion in Italian culture offered by this residency, at such a unique time for individuals and communities, will be the perfect foundation for bringing her vision to life.”

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 explore Modateca Deanna, an extraordinary historic archive for fashion focused on knitting. 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. She will have regular classes with professors from the Modateca and will visit local textile companies whilst receiving access to the Max Mara historic archives. 

In Catania, Sicily, Talbot will spend time with artist Rosario Sorbello 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 also learn about permaculture, a practice central to much Sicilian agriculture, which offers sustainable and ethical ways of living with the land. In order to do so, she will be hosted by the Casa di Paglia Felcerossa, a local farm located at the slopes of Mount Etna. 

Ending in Rome, Talbot will be hosted for two months by the prestigious research academy, The British School at Rome, where she will have access to a studio and all institutional facilities. She will be supported in her research by the British School tutors. Focusing on Herculean myths, she will also spend time at Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia researching designs on Etruscan Pottery, which are powerful conveyors of classical mythology. Whilst in Rome, Emma will visit museums and archeological sites with the aim to acquire a deep knowledge of the classical Italian landscape. 

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 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.

Iwona Blazwick, Whitechapel Gallery Director, 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 edition’s Max Mara Art Prize for Women winner!” 

Luigi Maramotti, Max Mara President, 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 which 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 endeavours. We are looking forward to welcoming her to Italy and Collezione Maramotti.” 

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