Emily Young – Sculptor

What initially led you to become a Sculptor? When did you know it was the medium for you?

My grandmother was a successful sculptor, so there were no huge taboos to break, the family home was full of her work, though she died years before I was born. For a while, till my early thirties, painting was my full time occupation, but a friend left some stone working tools in my house, and I started using them on bits of marble from a reclamation yard.

How does your artistic process begin?

I search out stones that might be willing to engage with my preoccupations, which are human- kinds relationship with the mother planet. I find the stones on hillsides, by the side of the road, or abandoned in old quarries, or in the waste piles of commercial stone yards. Sometimes I am given pieces, sometimes I buy them, but I’m not happy with the notion of quarrying generally, and so in a profoundly anthropomorphic way my eye is caught by rocks and stones that are already manifesting human inclinations, in terms of form.

Almost always the stone will show its history in the natural weathering over the thousands or millions of years, or its natural break,  a wild surface, so it really is a rock, not sawn six sides by human technology. The wind and rain, frost and earthquakes, the marks of deep time and Earth’s geology allow me to read and engage with the planets original formation. Then, when I can see a human head for instance in a rocks surface and structures, the story starts. If the stone is more or less sound, and I have some understanding that its inherent qualities as a stone are good to work with, I get it to the studio.

Thereafter I watch what the stone has to say, as I work with it, it’s colours and figurations, breaks and peculiarities. And it becomes a working relationship between the stone and me, I call it a kind of marriage. I do not want to impose my will on it as if it were the servant of my desires, but a partner in a project. I look for the serenity and power that the stone in its age displays, and also I look for my own internal quietness and thoughtfulness  – necessary for me to respectfully work with the stone. When this alliance manifests with a kind of still but present and powerful beauty, after days and weeks of working, the piece can go out into the world.

Who do you consider to be the biggest influence on your work?

I admire the archaic and classical Greek artists whose vision and truth to nature were fundamental to all western thought and aesthetics. But that was born from the more ancient mediterranean culture, and so in fact it is the whole history of human art that is my influence. It has always been a description, an iterated narrative about the human relationship with the planet. I believe that a huge cultural change must take place, where the notion of human mastery of nature must shift to profoundly thoughtful cooperation, or service.

You’ve previously cited your experiences travelling across the world as having a tangible influence on your work. To what degree do you believe other cultures have had an effect on your work?

Everywhere I went I came across stories about the creation of the planet, the source of natures power,  birth, reproduction and death, and later I read more about these great stories (religions and philosophies) from across the globe. The stories of course vary, but the essentials remain the same across time and space. I am interested in going behind specific cultures to find some kind of global human commonality.

Do you feel as if your understanding of other cultures has enabled you to create global art, that appeals to diverse cultures?

If a piece of work is comprehensible to another time, or place, then I am content.

You’ve recently relocated to a beautiful monastery in the hills of Tuscany. Do you feel more or less inspired, than when you were based in London?

The sense of age and space and quietness in my new place is phenomenal. To see the night sky without pollution is phenomenal. To wake and see the light on the sea is phenomenal. The wild life is phenomenal. To know that the history of the western world was born under these skies is phenomenal. The building is old and semi-ruined, which gives a world view that crosses time easily. My work is much the same, as it has has been for some years, but the distractions are different. Less noise, people, pollution. More nature and silence.

Henri Matisse once said, “Creativity takes Courage.” Art has historically often been used to push back on the Status Quo and challenge the establishment, do you feel as if there is a lack of this type in Art at the moment?

Yes.  The past fifty years in the world of public galleries of contemporary art for instance has been a dreadful and dismal display of the growing and miserable monetisation of “art’. The art world became a corrupt and willing slave to the idiocies of neoliberal capitalism, to nobodies benefit but private galleries and corporate greed. Infantile, boring, disconnected, opportunistic in increasing amounts. Suitable for a future full of a dumb, dutiful and  infantilised populace, and a sad disconnect between potential and reality. Perhaps a new wind begins to blow now.

Artists can unknowingly foretell things, the human brain is often opaque to its owner, and culture follows along behind the secret movements of human consciousness. What is happening now to the biosphere is so horrendous, so difficult to actually conceive of, and the distractions so wilfully ubiquitous, that as the pressure mounts, something must give.

The rest of this editorial will be published in full at a later time.