Don't miss Emily Young sculptures on display at New College, Oxford
Once seen, the stone heads and faces sculptured by Emily Young are instantly recognisable. The pieces exude serenity, and this exhibition has a contemplative quality that fits perfectly in the timeless setting of the cloisters of New College, Oxford
Selene: Moon Goddess (Image: Bowman Sculpture)
It seems pleasingly appropriate to be writing a review of an Emily Young exhibition for Timeless Travels magazine. For the work by this superlative artist has a timeless quality. Young, who has been called ‘Britain's greatest living stone sculptor’, has over 20 works on show in the quadrangle at New College, one of Oxford's oldest and best-known colleges.
Situated in the heart of the city, with quadrangle and spectacular gardens set against the medieval city wall, the College was founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester.
Pale Flame Torso (Image: Bowman Sculpture)
“Emily is famous for her heads - she’s always made heads,” said Willoughby Gerrish of Bowman Sculpture, the London gallery that has represented her in Britain since 2016.
“Emily has often in the past used sacred spaces to show her work - Salisbury Cathedral, The Crypt, St Pancras, St James Church, Piccadilly. Her work is contemplative (of human kind and the earth), and her pieces work brilliantly in these quiet, pure spaces.”
Quiet Mountain Head I (Image: Bowman Sculpture)
Born in London, brought up in Britain and Italy, attending university and art colleges in New York and London, then years of travelling widely, she now lives and works in Italy and the UK.
The power of Young’s carved stone heads first struck me in Paternoster Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, London. The year was 2003. There, five stone heads with swept back hair sit on top of columns gazing towards the cathedral: Angels I – V, carved from a light grey Purbeck stone (found on the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset an area of southern England with an impressive history of stone working dating back to Roman times).
Some of the sculptures in the Oxford exhibition have a similar character. But the style although familiar, never becomes stale for each has a unique personality due to the stone’s geology and geographical source.
“She lets the stone lead.” I hear this time and again. At quarries in Italy, mostly, she picks out her stones - Dolomitic limestone, Tuscan onyx, Tuscan alabaster - and moves on, hammer or chisel in hand, back in her studio. No predetermined design, no preliminary drawings, no maquettes. She lets these beautiful unexplored pieces of rock speak for themselves. She says it is like studying the origins of life, of consciousness in stone.
Blue Horizon Line (Image: Bowman Sculpture)
The effect of seeing these pieces in the dappled light of the cloistered quadrangle - heads, torsos in fabulous stones (blue marble, Alpine jade), uprights, and an amazing blue disc in a corner of the lawn - is remarkable.
Selene: Moon Goddess stood out in the shadowy cloisters, and was soon one of my favourites; carved in a dark Dolomitic limestone and just under 20 inches (50cm) high, its natural unfinished elements (typical of her work) accentuated the strength of the ancient Greek goddess of the moon (the Roman goddess Luna).
Onyx Bird Head I (Image: Theresa Thompson)
Meanwhile, the changing light falling through the window arches onto my other favourite, Onyx Bird Head I gave this sculpture, so calm and sympathetic in expression, a surprisingly lifelike beauty.
Emily Young sculptures
New College, Oxford
Showing until: 27th September 2018, 11-5pm daily (but with occasional closures)
For more information, CLICK HERE