Emily Young's Maremma Heads

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Recent stone carvings by the British sculptor have gone on show in London. Here the artist explains her work

A few months ago I moved my studio from London to an empty semi-ruined monastery on a hill-side in Italy, a few hours from Rome, where I had lived as a child. Here I've been working with the local stone, a kind of brecchiated quartz: individual stones are studded with large clear crystals, and can vary in colour from cream through grey to warm honey and red.

In the High Street the honeyed crystals would sell as precious stones, and would cost serious money; here on the olive covered hillside they lie quiet and un-noticed in the wind and sun, until I claim a piece. The walls of the old monastery glint in the sunlight as they too are made of quartz: my previous studio, in a fairly brutal and exposed industrial area next to the railway line at Paddington in London, was very different.

The heads I have carved here come, again, from my own pantheon of human characteristics; warrior, poets, lost angels, the silent and the silenced. They are the embodiment of sensations I don't see, but feel and know. These recent works being carved for my first solo show in London for three years (at The Fine Art Society in July) are not large (those will come later, an exhibition of eight enormous heads in Berkeley Square for early 2012). The show will comprise ten heads, varying between 20cms and 60cms in height, all worked from the local stone; there'll also be a collection of smaller torsos, carved from a variety of beautiful and rare stones.

The heads embody my perennial preoccupations: the frailty and quickness of human life, against the backdrop of the slow inexorable magnificence of stone and it's creation in the history of the Earth, and the Universe (no less): the joy of beauty, in all its forms, which is part of being human, in nature, and the seemingly infinite distress caused by being human, in nature.

Working with this exceptionally hard stone, in this tough, beautiful place it is easy to acknowledge my connection to the Mediterranean stone carvers of the past thousands of years; freed from city life, paying attention to the vast story of the creation of life, the relationship between humankind and the Planet, working becomes a rich, complex balancing act between the infinite and the present."

'The Maremma Heads' is at FAS Contemporary in London until 28 July

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