Visual arts: Revealing essential beauty

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It was the Romanian sculptor Brancusi who coined the phrase "truth to materials" to describe the sculptor's first challenge, one which goes right back to the art of ancient civilisations.

These days, the expression is rather overused - and devalued for that - yet it is worth bearing in mind when considering the work of Emily Young, whose "Sculptures in Stone" go on show at the Thackeray Gallery later this week.

Take, for example her Big Red Head (right), a melancholy giant carved from a massive block of Wilderness Stone. This is a brilliant piece of sculpture for which Young must take credit, yet there is a sense in which she is more of a medium than a maestro, her carving a continuation of a process begun in nature long ago. Young's skill lies in revealing what was already there - in this case the face of a man (possibly a North African Muslim) who has been locked in the stone for 500 million years. Young has set him free, but it is the stone which defines the shape of his head and its natural stripe which marks the line of his neck and skullcap. She has brought him out, but his identity was inherent in the stone.

The concept of sculpture having personality is a strong and convincing one in Young's work, both in her Warrior Heads, such as the one that I have described, and in the simply beautiful, not to say sexy, sections of womanhood that form the other main thread of her work.

These torsos, which are anything from pocket- to life-size, possess an intimacy and gentleness not often associated with stone sculpture. Between the smooth mound of the breast and the soft curve of the belly their strength, as with the heads, lies in their simplicity - a simplicity and primitive power that share more with the ancient world than with our own time. Emily Young is a fine sculptor who deserves the attention of a wider audience.

Emily Young, Sculptures in Stone, The Thackeray Gallery, 18 Thackeray Street, London W8 (0171-937 5883) from Wed to 10 Jul

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