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Emma Talbot celebrates International Women’s Day on Picadilly Lights.


Emma Talbot, the London-based artist of sensuous visual poems becomes the next CIRCA artist, presenting a new body of four animated films in collaboration with Whitechapel Gallery, Collezione Maramotti and the Max Mara Art Prize for Women. Following a woman at the gateway between the old world and a new world to be made, Talbot’s ‘Four Visions for a Hopeful Future’ tells the story of a protagonist in search of answers to guide both her own journey and the development of society to a spiritual and political rebirth, on the iconic Piccadilly Lights screen.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day (8th March), Talbot’s animations represent our current moment as a universal space of fluid nature, punctuated with direct appeals to the viewer’s emotional reasoning, where past sadness can be transcended. Quoting Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, Talbot’s work utilizes the giant display as “a portal, a gateway between one world and the next” through which we are passing with the changing of seasons. Drawing on a history of cultural flourishing following historic pandemics, as the Black Death preceded the Renaissance, Talbot imagines a world in becoming, unshackled from the darkness of the past and limitations of societies that came before.

Talbot, winner of the eighth Max Mara Art Prize for Women, has begun to focus on her solo practice only recently, following a career as an educator and academic in some of London’s most prestigious art schools. Her autobiographical work encompasses drawing, painting, animation, and sculpture. In a challenge to pessimism and cynicism, she confronts some of the world’s biggest structural problems, from gender inequality to the environmental collapse. Her winning proposal for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, a feminist response to the apparent shame of female ageing presented in Gustav Klimt’s painting Three Ages of Woman (1905), is emblematic of her works that communicate the personal as political. Talbot uses this as the starting point for her Max Mara Art Prize project and intends to animate the figure of the older woman as someone with agency, who overcomes a series of trials similar to The Twelve Labours of Hercules.


“The prospect of being able to realise some work for the screen at Piccadilly Circus was super exciting to me, because it offered the potential to address the zeitgeist of our times so directly. During lockdown, I’ve really had to ask myself how art could or should function. What can art do in relation to a set of contemporary conditions we’d never experienced before? The CIRCA project, for artists to make works for the iconic outdoor screen extended the potential for art to have a life in a city. Situating my animations, that address the problematics of accelerated capitalist structures and their empty promises and appeal to us to reimagine our futures differently, within a space commonly used for advertising seemed apposite.”


Her Four Visions will be broadcast in a rolling four-night schedule throughout March. Animated in hand-drawn landscapes of natural and celestial beauty, lush with bodily and floral forms, Talbot searches for answers to the questions that will define a hopeful world as this savage winter draws to an end:

  • –  A Year of Dark Shadows: What will it take to emerge from a year of darkness and heal, Talbot asks? “Do you stare down into the pit… or up to the stars, pinpoints of hope in the night sky?”
  • –  What is a City? The future of our cities, having depopulated and re-awoken, rests on decisions we now take between exponential growth and other forms of value
  • –  Our Own Creation: Talbot proposes ideas for how we each might come to visualise a hopeful future
  • –  Chorus: The communal nature of the challenge ahead and the polyphony of positive voices that arenecessary to build a movement for cultural rebirth

Talbot’s CIRCA commission comes just before the artist embarks upon a six-month bespoke residency as part of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, organised by Collezione Maramotti. Pending travel restrictions and government advice, Talbot will visit Rome, Reggio Emilia and Sicily later this year to research classical mythology, textile craftsmanship and permaculture, creating a new body of work to be shown first at Whitechapel Gallery and then at the Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy in 2022. Beginning in Rome, Talbot will be hosted by the prestigious research academy British School of Rome. She will also spend time in Villa Giulia Museum researching designs on Etruscan Pottery which are powerful conveyors of classical mythology. Textiles are also central to Talbot’s work and in Reggio Emilia she will have the unique opportunity to acquire new skills under the guidance of Modateca Deanna to learn Intarsia, a form of jacquard knitting used to create patterns with multiple colors. In Catania Talbot will spend time with the artist Rosario Sorbello exploring layers of history, visiting ancient archeological sites and learning about Permaculture, a practice central to much Sicilian agriculture that offers sustainable and ethical ways of living with the land.

Visitors to Piccadilly Circus can connect their headphones to WWW.CIRCA.ART and receive a fully immersive audio-visual experience, with Talbot having also produced an audio landscape to accompany her animation. The website also streams the artwork every evening at 20:21GMT and hosts supporting content alongside past archives of CIRCA commissioned works, including those from Patti Smith and Ai Weiwei.

 “The CIRCA project offers Emma Talbot an exceptional, innovative space in which to share her new work, whose point of departure is this adverse time we are going through as individuals and as a society. It will be interesting to see if and how this momentous experience will intertwine with the investigation Talbot is going to pursue through the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, as she engages with Italian culture and history during her upcoming residency in our country.”


About the Artist

Emma Talbot (b. 1969, UK) lives and works in London. Her work in drawing, painting, installation and sculpture explores the inner landscape of personal thought, emotion and narrative. These individual subjectivities are then cast into wider narratives, addressing prevalent contemporary concerns. Her work is often hand-drawn or painted onto silk or other textiles, and incorporates her own writing or quotes from prominent female authors.



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