Emma Talbot (b. 1969, Stourbridge, Worcestershire) is a London-based artist whose work spans drawing, painting, installation and sculpture. Developing narratives around the ‘struggles of life’ within contemporary society, she offers visual autobiographies; articulating internal narratives and mental images of both personal experiences and those of others, real or imagined. She is interested in how fragmented imagery corresponds to the fleeting quality of thought and imagination, with the aim to capture an internal narrative: the preoccupying thoughts that shape one’s own experience of being.
Talbot’s recent work centres around intimate relationships with technology; ruminating on the narratives of connectivity and alienation that constantly surround us. How Do You Know What You Know? 2019 was part of last weekend’s Art Night and sited at Mirth, Marvel and Maud, an old cinema in Walthamstow with a 131-year history and beloved by Alfred Hitchcock. Painted directly on silk and suspended from the ceiling the vibrant hanging featuring lithe, faceless, stylised figures, ruminates on how our dreams and identity become constructed and projected on, for example, screen or online; an exploration of constructed realities and how we subscribe to them.
Your Own Authority, 2019, a painted canopy suspended from the ceiling in the William Morris Gallery, was commissioned for Art Night. The work, still on show at the Gallery, responds to the work of Madge Gill (1882-1961). A self-taught artist, spiritualist and medium, Gill believed that everything she made was informed by Myrninerest, her spirit-guide that she came to embody. Myrninerest would send messages that, despite being sometimes indecipherable, were seemingly urgent. Talbot reconsiders Gill’s almost invisible activity at the time of her making and, through her interpretation of Gill, shines light on its relevance from a contemporary perspective. Your Own Authority reflects on our relationship to the energies of the multiverse, the possibility to tune into other dimensions and alternative ways of thinking, and the pervasive power of nature.
Faceless, stylised figures and the inclusion of text recur in Talbot’s work, often presented as a storyboard, accentuating their narrative focus. These features can be seen in work such as 21st Century Sleepwalk, 2018 an installation at Caustic Coastal, Salford which explored the events of life and death and contrasted these with the living portrayed as sleepwalking between them. Among the faceless, stylised sculptures representing the acts of life and death, a 10-meter long painted silk-hanging cogitated on the emotional, almost spiritual, reactions to the labyrinth-like web of human life, city regeneration, technology and nature in the 21st century.
Talbot’s use of strong imagery combined with the fragility of silk seemingly accentuates the psychological nature of her work. Her stylised figures and text offer fragmented imagery corresponding to the fleeting quality of thought and the imaginative operations of the mind’s eye. Her work poses open-ended questions and reflects on connectivity to nature, the body, our own thoughts and the self in relation to technology.
Emma Talbot’s work is on show at William Morris Gallery, London until 22 September.
Solo exhibition at Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, October 2019
Group show at Galerie Onrust, Amsterdam, September 2019
Solo exhibition at Petra Rinck Galerie, Düsseldorf, January 2020
Solo exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts, 2020