Max Mara Art Prize 6th Edition: 2015 - 2017

Hart I I I


Emma Hart was selected as the winner of the sixth Max Mara Art Prize for Women from a shortlist of fellow artists: Ruth Ewan, Ana Genoves, Tania Kovats and Phoebe Unwin.

The panel chaired by Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, comprised Fiona Bradley, Director, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh; Sarah Elson, Collector and Founder of Launch Pad, a commissioning series supporting emerging artists; Helen Sumpter, Editor, Art Quarterly; and Artist and Royal Academician Alison Wilding. Hart’s project is the result of a six months bespoke residency which started in June 2016 and was divided between three Italian cities: Milan, Todi and Faenza.


Emma Hart lives and works in London. She received an MA in Fine Art from the Slade in 2004 and completed her PhD in Fine Art at Kingston University in 2013. In 2015 she was awarded a Paul Hamlyn Foundation award for Visual Art. Hart works capture the confusion, stress and nausea of everyday experience. Always in pursuit of real life and subjective feelings, she uses ceramics to create claustrophobic installations that engage the viewer physically and emotionally, as well as smaller works which despite their size demand attention. There are frequent verbal and visual spillages, and Hart’s use of clay is often corporeal, forming approximate body parts that act as substitutes for human action and employment. 


Emma Hart’s large-scale installation titled Mamma Mia! presents a family of oversized ceramic heads, in dialogue with one another. Each sculpture is jug-like in shape: the spout mimics a nose and the opening a mouth. A significant part of the work was produced in Italy: realised by the artist in Faenza alongside ceramic artisans. Each sculpture is glazed, incorporating motifs, such as the speech bubble and the interior space of the heads is filled with vivid patterns, designed and hand-painted by Hart after researching the designs and practice of the Italian tradition of maiolica. Emma Hart’s new work is the culmination of an investigation into patterns both visual and psychological and her artistic enquiry encompassed how the final design could rupture these areas and consider the ruminations between. The space between viewer and object is key, as ever in Hart’s work, and is charged with the artist’s particularly personal take on her experiences in Italy including the heat, light and colour, language and family dynamics in an unfamiliar setting. Hart’s Exhibition was presented at Whitechapel Gallery: 12 July – 3 September 2017; and at Collezione Maramotti: 15 October 2017 – 18 February 2018

The full project Mamma Mia! was loaned to the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, in 2018/2019.

Image Credit: Emma Hart, I ,I, I (2017) Copyright Emma Hart