Saturday, August 16, 2008

You have never seen anything like the sculpture of Emily Young, who has been called the greatest living British sculptor and the successor to Barbara Hepworth - not unless you have seen the work itself. I visited her studio in London in mid-July, as she was madly preparing for an exhibition in Edinburgh to begin in two weeks. Emily's studio is in an extraordinary site - under a train overpass in a drab suburb (the overpass must help keep off the rain, as there are few conventional walls and no real roof) - and the walk to it was down a skinny disused track for a motley collection of warehouses. The impact of her work is hard to describe - I had seen her website and knew what to expect, but the atmosphere in the studio is so dusty and in process that the power of her vision emerged somewhat magically, as if the great stones and half-done pieces were rising out of an Avallonian mist to hook my soul. On her website the work hits you between the eyes and you can see at once her incredible vision - a review talked about her classical talent combining with the "bandit power of nature" - you will immediately know what that means when you see the work. She works in many types of stone, including Carrara marble, the same material used by Michelangelo, a beautiful golden English stone called Purbeck marble, and semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli. Note the great face (about 3' tall) with the disparate eyes - the gaping hole of one eye was, of course, the kind of flaw in the natural stone that inspires Emily. Her assistant Louis (also her nephew) told us that when they had cut it from the mountain in Italy, scorpions had poured out of the hole.

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