Emma Hart has won the sixth Max Mara Art Prize for Women at a ceremony at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, on 3 February 2016. The Prize, was awarded by Iwona Blazwick, OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery. The prize 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.
The judging panel for the sixth Max Mara Art Prize for Women was chaired by Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, joined by Fiona Bradley, Director of the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh; Sarah Elson, Collector and Founder of Launch Pad, a commissioning series supporting emerging artists; Helen Sumpter, Critic and Senior Editor / Web Editor at ArtReview; and Artist and Royal Academician Alison Wilding.
On behalf of the judging panel Iwona Blazwick, OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery and chair of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women jury, said: ‘It was clear that Emma Hart’s proposal was a deeply personal subject key to her life and work: the power of the family. The jury were impressed with the depth and breadth of references in Hart’s approach, from the Milan System’s Approach of family psychotherapy to the novels of Elena Ferrante, to the Italian tradition of Maiolica ceramics. The Prize and residency in Italy offer Hart a rare chance at an important moment in her career, to enrich and develop a new body of work. The balance of deepening formal skills and understanding of her chosen media and the time and space to develop her research will no doubt inform her work. The Whitechapel Gallery counts Picasso, Pollock and Rothko among our alumni, but we also gave Barbara Hepworth, Frida Kahlo, Eva Hesse, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Isa Genzken, Gillian Wearing and Sarah Lucas their first major solo shows. We are delighted to welcome Emma Hart into our history books and present her at the Gallery in 2017.’
Emma Hart, winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women 2015-17 said: ‘I am truly delighted to have won this prize. It gives me the time and space to make work in a focused manner that unfortunately normally evades me. I can concentrate, experiment and fully immerse myself in new ideas and methods. I have also never really left London, so 6 months in Italy will be the adventure of a lifetime.’
Dr. Luigi Maramotti, Chairman of Max Mara said: ‘I am very excited about Emma’s project as it explores two particularly rich areas of expertise in Italy – the field of psychotherapy and the tradition of ceramics, both historic and contemporary. The production of ceramics has been consistently innovative, particularly in Faenza. We are excited to see how Emma interprets this tradition into her thoroughly personal and contemporary practice. This Prize is something we are very proud of; it is unique as we offer artists the time, space and freedom to create new work while experiencing Italian cultural heritage and aesthetics. I am delighted that once again the artist’s family will be joining her on this journey; from both a personal and artistic point of view it will no doubt enrich her experience. I would like to thank our esteemed panel of judges, Iwona Blazwick and the Whitechapel Gallery for their continued work in making this such an important and respected prize. My gratitude and praise also goes to Emma and I look forward to welcoming her to the Collezione Maramotti in the coming months.’