Emma Talbot, winner of the eighth Max Mara Art Prize for Women, premieres a new body of work at the Whitechapel Gallery in June. “The Age/L’Età” comprises animations, painted silk hanging panels, three-dimensional works and drawings. The new work explores themes of representation and ageing, power and government, and attitudes towards nature. For the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, Talbot imagines a future environment in which humanity struggles with the disastrous consequences of late capitalism and, in order to survive, must look to more ancient and holistic ways of creating and belonging that rethink ancient power structures and celebrate the natural world.
“The Age/L’Età” takes as its starting point Gustav Klimt’s painting 2Three Ages of Woman”, which Talbot had the opportunity to see in person during his residency. Klimt depicts an elderly woman holding her head in an expression of apparent shame. In his new work, Talbot reimagines this elderly figure as a woman endowed with power.
“The Age/L’Età” also presents two large-scale hanging silk works, hand-painted to depict volatile landscapes of the near future, with ruins and volcanic terrain that the central figure explores and inhabits. As in many of his other works, Talbot has engraved a text on the silk that addresses the themes of the exhibition and invites viewers to question their own perceptions. The subject matter of the silk works is inspired by Talbot’s travels to Sicily, where he explored the volcanic landscape, ancient ruins and studied permaculture principles. During a side visit to Como, he learnt about silk recycling practices. Talbot’s incorporation of recycled fabrics and use of sustainable resources within his practice imbues the work with questions about life cycles, renewal and agelessness. The final element of “The Age/L’Età” is a physical manifestation of the central elderly figure in the form of a life-sized sculpture made from soft, padded fabrics.