Emily Young’s determination to increase environmental awareness through her art has seen her named ‘Britain’s leading living stone sculptor’ by the Financial Times.
Born in London to a family of artists and politicians, Emily Young spent her life traveling across the world to learn about art, history, and its role of importance for different cultures.
Though Young started out as a painter, by the early 1980’s she had begun carving into stone, searching several continents for discarded materials to chip away at. It wasn’t long before she had solidified herself as one of the world’s most well-respected sculptors.
She would eventually go on to carve faces into huge pieces of marble worth £500,000, but these ten-tonne sculptures weren’t auctioned off to art collectors or placed in museums. Instead, they were dropped to the seabed of the Mediterranean.
Young’s agent ‘questioned her sanity’ as she placed incredibly valuable pieces of art where they’d likely only be noticed by a handful of unsuspecting divers – but her motivation for this underwater installation was far greater than any price tag on offer.
Tuscany’s seascape, like many parts of the world, sees fishermen regularly trawl massive nets along the seabed, ripping up sea grass and capturing every fish in their path – completely obliterating the landscape and the marine life that depends on it.
By placing the massive sculptures on the seabed, illegal trawlers, which operate under the cover of night, would find their nets getting caught – stopping the boats in their tracks.
Not only would the artworks work to prevent unsustainable fishing practices, but they would also become a new habitat which supports the surrounding sea life. Emily placed 2 out of 24 sculptures created by a series of artists for the project. The first one she deployed off the coast of Talamone is now home to a family of corals, starfish, and crabs.
The sculptures sit eight metres below the surface of the Mediterranean, where remains of ancient Greek and Roman artefacts are frequently uncovered. Now 70, Emily Young hopes that in the future, remains of her work will be amongst those rediscovered by future generations, decades from now.
Speaking of her past exhibitions, Young said: ‘the stone is always born from the deep geological history of the planet Earth […] some stones are even billions of years old. They carry the marks made by a short-lived human, which will then travel on into the future and endure for many more millions if not billions of years, telling something of our present feelings for the planet.’
In an interview with The Times, Young said: ‘I like the idea of it being a voice from now to the future.’
Although most of us won’t get the chance to see this underwater Mediterranean museum with our own eyes, there is an opportunity to see a collection of Emily Young’s work in the city of London.
From today (October 13th), her sculptures will be presented in TOMASSO gallery in collaboration with Willoughby Gerrish. Bearing similarities to her undersea projects, the designs consist of faces carved into beautiful, natural stones such as golden and green Onyx.
Around the world, Emily Young’s timeless work will continue to shed light on humanity’s troubled relationship with nature.
Using ancient stones, her medium allows viewers to consider how we rely on and have remained connected to the world around us, both in the past and today. It also highlights the importance of this relationship as we continue to leave our (sometimes destructive) mark on the Earth.
The underwater sculptures in particular – which Young acknowledges will lose their detail due to erosion from water currents – draw attention to the ways that humans should cherish this relationship, rather than attempting to exert control over the power of nature.
As someone who has turned her talent into an eye-catching and compelling artwork about environmental issues, Emily Young is an inspiration for aspiring artists who are striving to produce meaningful art from the materials they find in the natural world around them.
I’m Jessica (She/Her), a writer at Thred. I moved to London to complete a master’s degree in Media and Communications after spending two years working in fashion PR in Amsterdam. Follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn and drop me some ideas/feedback via email.
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