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ABOVE Head 43cms
  • LEFT Head 21cm high

Emma Maiden

My sculptures are intended for domestic spaces, to be lived with and enjoyed. I think that living with objects - handmade or found - is important, increasingly so as life becomes more technology-driven and our relationship with natural materials more tenuous.

A treasured object can act as an anchor and seeing and touching it can make everything else still for a moment. Although it takes up physical space, it creates another sort of space where there can be quietness and a sense of connection.

I get that same feeling when looking at objects in a museum, and through drawing them I start to understand how their anonymous makers used certain rhythms of form and line to create emotion and atmosphere.

While I’m there I’m aware too, that, whether it¹s an African mother and child sculpture, a Romanesque frieze, or a hand-held Inuit carving, everything I'm looking at had a social or religious message to communicate, and very often did so through stories that seem to transcend both time and culture. Mythological themes from Adam and Eve and the Holy family to shape-shifting, shamanic reincarnations abound in reliefs and carvings, in wildly differing forms with names peculiar to peoples and places.

They are themes of the imagination, symbols of creation and continuity, endlessly reinterpreted and reformed by different hands in different continents through history.

Myths, Jung believed, help us make sense of life, acting as a vital bridge between the outer world and inner mind. And in our own secular, individualistic times, when - so we are told - we no longer hold shared beliefs, we still respond to these stories and characters, recognizing in them something familiar and reinterpreting them in the light of our own experience.

With my carvings I feel that I am continuing that process by taking an Old Testament story and recasting the characters as earthly, human and known. Adam and Eve are playing out the human drama common to all relationships; as Milton demonstrates with compassion in Paradise Lost, they show us ourselves in all our best and worst, but ultimately forgivable, states.

The Madonna figures too are not intended to carry an overtly religious message, nor necessarily a maternal one. Rather, the precious thing they reach for may be an idea, a wish, something abstract and private.

I like the fact that the stone is far, far older than the stories. It has a sense of permanency and continuity which is both reassuring and challenging. Carving is a slow process, but each stage of working reveals new aspects of the stone's nature: the block is square and uncompromising, but as the layers are chipped away the form softens and the material starts to take life.

Then, with rasps and files and many grades of sandpaper the true colour starts to come through, along with - in the case of limestones - veins of quartz perhaps, or tiny fossils and fragments of shell, laid down in the stone bed millions of years ago.

Each piece of stone reveals something different and unique, its own particular history, that runs through the core of the finished carving and the story it is telling.

1966 Born in Lancashire
1995-96 MA Ceramics, University of Wales, Cardiff
1993-95 Diploma in Fine and Applied Art, City Literary Institute, London
1988-91 BA (hons) English, Manchester College, Oxford
2003-04 Stonemasonry (City & Guilds / CITB), City of Bath College

Exhibitions (selected)

Emma Maiden: New Sculpture 
The Stour Gallery, Shipston-on-Stour

RWA 152nd Autumn Exhibition

Emma Maiden: New Sculpture West Wales Arts Centre, Fishguard

The Sculpture Show Bruton Street Gallery, London

Humans Being New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham, Surrey

About the Figure Six Chapel Row, Bath

Touchstone (solo exhibition) The Happening Gallery, Bristol

Journeys in Clay New British Ceramics, Alberta, Canada

Past Masters Hotbath Gallery, Bath

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