Contemporary sculpture is having a moment and the range of talented artists practising this most noble of crafts can be seen across the country. From the newly extended Frieze Sculpture Park in London to the wonderful and idyllic setting of Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the north, sculpture is putting itself on the map. From the monumental to the intimate, outdoors or within, the work of its leading artisans are highly collectible.
Oxfordshire is home to not only the UK’s largest exhibition of stone sculpture, On Form at Asthall Manor near Burford, but also talented artist and stone carver Emma Maiden. Maiden, a long time Oxfordshire resident, is a regular contributor to On Form and her work lends itself to their ideal of sculpture “that can rest just as easily on a kitchen table as on a grand plinth”. Both in size and subject matter, Maiden’s work is approachable and deeply intimate.
“My pieces have always been more or less domestic in scale, and that is because I want them to fit into people’s lives, to be seen, touched and enjoyed,” she explains.“And if they,in turn,touch those lives with a sense of stillness, they have achieved their purpose.
“I think living with objects, handmade or found, is important, increasingly so as life becomes more technology driven and our relationship with natural materials more tenuous.”
Maiden is best known for her simple, yet striking, stone carvings of figures and birds. Nature and human emotion find harmony in her simple lines. This pared-down aesthetic finds inspiration in Mexico City and Central America. And while some find influences of Henry Moore or Jacob Epstein in her style, it is her work’s tendency to shift and change before your eyes that comes to the fore. The themes that populate Maiden’s work are universally accessible and at the core of her sculptures is a deep sense of serenity:
“Although devoid of any specifically religious content, I hope my Madonnas, along with all the sculptures I make, convey a spiritual calm,” she acknowledges. This also extends to her choice of stone, working with hard, close-grained textures such as English limestones that reveal a silky, Brancusi-like finish. When she can, Maiden sources her stone locally and favours hand-carving over the noise of pneumatic-tools.
Maiden, who has lived and worked in the Cotswolds for over seven years, exhibiting at local venues with Oxford Art Society, is now set to bring the peace and calm of the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside to London with an exhibition of new works at The Fine Art Society. These new works hold true to Maiden’s belief that sculpture should be familiar and a constant source of peace in the humdrum of everyday life.
Sara Terzi, the curator of Maiden’s forthcoming exhibition, said: “In an era where large sculptural installations seem to dominate the art scene, it’s exciting to find an artist who allows for the work to become part of somebody’s life in a very intimate way. “When you are close to it, you can’t help but want to touch the beautifully carved stone to discover more about the familiar, yet mysterious, figures she creates.
“Everything looks as it was effortlessly put in place, from the superb detail of the hand-made pattern she painstakingly creates, to the presentation, with each sculpture being placed on a custom-made stone base resting on a warm oak plinth.”