Spotlight: Emily Young

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A sacerdotal stillness is quintessential to Young’s work and is embodied in Face of Stillness which has the meditative qualities of a monumental bodhisattva or Buddha. The graceful face is compelling, with closed eyes and timeless and nationless features. Young deliberately creates non-culturally specific heads: ‘I try to get rid of all the emotional content to achieve a sense of complete stillness. When I begin carving, the face might seem a little worried or a little happy. I want to get rid of all that. I want it to be utterly still. I want to create a feeling of silence… The face is quiet, and the eyes are shut because I want the viewer to have a moment to respond to the stone, to understand quietness in the stone, even though it may have been created in volcanoes and earthquakes.’

Acknowledging that there are artworks that have slipped into her subconscious, Young attempts to create ‘a look that anybody who has lived anywhere at any time on earth will recognise – two eyes, a nose… I want to do something that anybody will get and will show the nature and the material, wild and free.’ Louis de Bernieres described Young’s work as ‘characterised by the highly individual way in which it combines strength with gentleness. Her sculptures are massive, often chthonic, but their contours are rounded as if moulded by a lover’s hand rather than chiselled out by steel.’

Young invites the viewer to connect with the sculpture, contemplating it as an experience of self-reflection which, as with religious sculpture over the centuries, encourages rapport, compassion, a meditation on the self and mankind’s relationship with the earth. The material acts as a timeless connection with the land, and a historical witness which Young sees as a plea for a reimagining of our future. She describes her sculptures as ‘fictional archaeology’ – not belonging to a particular period but offering a timeless connection to the ground.

Young has chosen to cast a few specific works in bronze which she considers to be exceptional examples of the various genres of her work. She states, ‘Bronze is one of the most ancient and beautiful materials, used over many millennia by humans. Like stone, it is extremely durable, and can carry the embodiment of human consciousness in sculpture over vast periods of time.' The bronzes are not mere replications of her iconic stone heads but rather entirely new works of art, marrying her contemporary carving style with traditional casting. They have an enduring, romantic presence and bear distinct patination. Face of Stillness is patinated in a rich, mottled green suggestive of an aged and timeless sculpture that has taken on the viridescence of its surroundings, offering meditations on time, geography, humanity and culture.