With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling 
we shall not cease from exploration 
and the end of all our exploring
 will be to arrive where we started
 and know the place for the first time.

Emma Hart

For the sixth edition of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women, Iwona Blazwick, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery has announced Emma Hart as winner during the ceremony in London, on 3 February 2016.

The winner
London based artist Emma Hart, born in 1974, was chosen by a panel of expert judges from a five-strong shortlisted: Ruth Ewan, Ana Genovés, Tania Kovats and Phoebe Unwin.

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.

The bespoke residency, organised by Collezione Maramotti in collaboration with Max Mara and the Whitechapel Gallery, has started in June 2016 and is divided between three Italian cities Milan, Todi and Faenza. In Milan, Lombardy, she spent two months based at Via Farini VIR – DOCVA, an international programme for artist residencies.

She researched 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 spent three weeks in Todi, Umbria where she had time to consolidate her research at Bibo’s Place  Association managed the son of Alighiero Boetti, and Andrea Bizzarro. She had the opportunity to connect with a number of cultural institutions in the region and she also visited Deruta, a hill town known for its renowned ceramics.

The residency ended in Faenza, Emilia-Romagna where Hart studied and experimented with the production of ceramics at Museo Carlo Zauli, an important institution renowned for its innovative work with contemporary artists. Faenza is also home to the International Museum of Ceramics, the largest and most important collection of ceramics in the world where Hart had the opportunity to discover both ancient and contemporary ceramic making techniques. She travelled to Rome for short stays during the residency to enhance her research.

The new body of work will be shown in a major solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery on July 2017 before touring to Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia from October.

A conversation
During the Settimana del Contemporaneo in Faenza, Hart  introduced herself to the town during a conversation hosted by Marinella Paderni (art critic and independent curator) where she explained – for the first time in Italy – the reasons of her residency in the town of Faenza, and her interest for ceramics in her present artistic research, within a wider reflection touching on her encounter with Italian culture, its lifestyles and social import.

In particular, the conversation explored the highlights of her stay in other Italian cities.

The experience during her visit at Scuola di Psicoterapia Mara Selvini Palazzoli, where Hart participated in the “family game”, the construction of “social sculptures” and the dynamics of relational mirroring on which she is developing her idea for the use of lights and shadows.

The itinerary across Rome's archaeological roads, where she encountered Roman tombs as celebratory monuments to the family/gens.


The discovery of the old decorations in Umbria's majolica, which have brought her to search for new patterns to adopt in her work. And Faenza, where she experimented directly with the production of her new work.

The artwork
Mamma Mia!", the installation resulting from the artist's resulting from the artist's residency in Milan, Todi and Faenza, was inaugurated on 12 July 2017 at London's Whitechapel Gallery and afterward, on 15 October 2017, had its opening at Collezione Maramotti which will acquire it for its collection.

In her work the artist has focused on the concept of family and family relations which the artist has studied in their psychological and relational dynamics, in her visits to a psychotherapy school in Milan during her residency.

Her imposing large-size installation apperas like a full-fledged space where eleven large vases/heads are linked together by a mesh of red electric wires, encapsulating a complex system of relational energies. The heads/pitchers hide inside a series of patterns which the artist has created while in Italy (in Faenza with the support of expert artisans) after a period spend studying decoration in the tradition of ceramics and their social value. They are cut and project on the floor their silhouette shaped like a lit comics balloon where the visitors can enter and engage in a personal dialogue with the work. The artist's purpose consists in effect in trasferring these systems of relations between the work and visitors who find themselves plunged into the space to play an active role. 

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