Emma Hart Wins the Sixth Max Mara Art Prize for Women

Words by Elena Scarpa
February 9, 2016

Iwona Blazwick, OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery has announced Emma Hart as the sixth winner of the prestigious Max Mara Art Prize for Women at a ceremony at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, on 3 February 2016. The Prize, which has been awarded in alternate years since 2005, supports UK-based female artists who have not previously had a solo survey exhibition, making it the only visual art prize of its kind the UK.

London based artist Emma Hart (b. 1974) was chosen by a panel of expert judges from a five-strong shortlist including Ruth Ewan, Ana Genovés, Tania Kovats and Phoebe Unwin, all of whom presented proposals for an artist residency in Italy. As the winner, Hart will now spend six months in Lombardy, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna during 2016 on a residency tailored to her interests, creating a new body of work that will be shown in a major solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2017 before touring to Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Emma Hart works across ceramics, video, photography and sound. Actively channelling her autobiography, anxieties, and embarrassments into her work, her practice is concerned with the way real experiences and emotions are misrepresented and muted when captured on camera. She sets photographs and video screens against crude clay shapes, or scales-up ceramics in detailed installations that saturate the senses.

Her winning proposal for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women focuses on a subject central to her life and work: the power of the family. By exploring the unique Italian ethos and traditions of family through symbols, possessions and objects, as well as systems and relationships that exist in Italian culture, Hart wants to expose the highs and lows and everyday realities of family life.

Hart’s bespoke residency, organised by Collezione Maramotti in collaboration with Max Mara and the Whitechapel Gallery, starts in June 2016 and is divided between three Italian cities Milan, Todi and Faenza. In Milan, Lombardy, she will spend two months based at Via Farini VIR – DOCVA on an international programme for artist residencies. She will be researching the Milan Systems Approach, a systemic and constructivist method of family therapy as well as the pioneering work of Italian psychiatrist Mara Selvini Palazzoli who developed this model of therapy.

For the second phase of the residency, Hart will spend three weeks in Todi, Umbria where she will have time to consolidate her research at Italian conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti’s studio which is managed by his son Matteo Boetti, who is the founder of nearby contemporary art gallery Bibo’s Place. Hart will also have the opportunity to connect with a number of cultural institutions in the region, in particular the Fondazione Burri which holds a number of works by painter and sculptor Alberto Burri. She will also visit Deruta, a hill town known for its world renowned ceramics.

The residency will end in Faenza, Ravenna, Emilia- Romagna where Hart will study and experiment with the production of ceramics at Museo Carlo Zauli, an important institution renowned for its innovative work with artists. Faenza is also home to the International Museum of Ceramics, the largest and most important collection of ceramics in the world where Hart will have the opportunity to discover both ancient and contemporary ceramic making techniques. She will also travel to Rome and Naples for short stays during the residency to enhance her research.

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