Emma Talbot
1 March 2021

Emma Talbot for c.20:21

Emma Talbot’s c.20:21 commission celebrates International Women’s Day on Piccadilly Lights

1-31 March, 2021
CIRCA, Piccadilly Circus, W1

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 (8 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.

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 are necessary 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 the ETRU Museum-Villa Giulia 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.

People are invited to become supporters of CIRCA as part of their new initiative ‘c. YOUR NAME IN LIGHTS’ which offers 1,000 people the opportunity to support free public art and have their name appear on the Piccadilly Lights screen, every evening at 20:21GMT/BST, until the end of the year. To find out how, visit: www.circa.art/support-circa


CIRCA has been made possible by Landsec, landlord of Piccadilly Lights, who have kindly donated media space, as a helpful boost to the cultural scene in London’s West End. CIRCA is especially grateful to Piccadilly Lights, Collezione Maramotti, The Art Newspaper, Lisson Gallery, Gagosian, Whitechapel Gallery, The Showroom, Art Rabbit, The Barbican, ICA and the Museo della Merda (Italy) for their support of the c.20:21 programme.

For more information on the CIRCA commission please contact: press@circa.art

For more information on the Max Mara Art Prize for Women please contact:
Whitechapel Gallery: Megan Miller, T: +44 (0)207 539 3315, E: meganmiller@whitechapelgallery.org
Collezione Maramotti: Zeynep Seyhun, Pickles PR, T: +39 349 0034359, E: zeynep@picklespr.com
Max Mara: Andrea Iacopi, Max Mara, T: +39 02777921, E: iacopi.a@maxmara.it