Whitechapel Gallery Honors Emma Hart With ‘Mamma Mia!’

Emma Hart, Installation View of Mamma Mia at Whitechapel Gallery in London. Photo: Thierry Bal

An Installation View of Emma Hart’s Mamma Mia! at Whitechapel Gallery in London. Photo: Thierry Bal

ART REVIEW: Mamma Mia!, a new installation by Emma Hart, winner of won the  2016 Max Mara Art Prize on display at the Whitechapel Gallery reveals real life experiences.


Emma Hart, I Want What You’ve Got, Even When I am Asleep 2017. Image: Whitechapel- Gallery

LONDON-A major exhibition of works by London-based artist Emma Hart is on display at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The show is for the sixth edition of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women. The biannual award started in 2005 to champion women artists in the UK.

Hart won the Max Mara Art Prize for Women in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery in 2016. As the winner, she went on a six-month residency divided between three Italian cities: Milan, Todi, and Faenza. There, she was able to actualize the idea that helped her win the award. With funding and necessary support, her ambitious winning proposal, a new large-scale installation titled Mamma Mia! is now on display.

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Mamma Mia! is a collection of large glazed ceramic heads in the shape of a jug. They were produced in Faenza alongside ceramic artisans. Together, the sculptures appear to be in a dialogue. The spout mimics a nose and the opening a mouth makes them look like they are in a conversation.  Each sculpture is rich in motifs. In addition to speech bubble motifs on the body of the sculptures, the interior space of the heads is decorated with vivid patterns, designed and hand-painted by Hart. The patterns adorning the heads, which are the result of a research of designs and practice of the Italian tradition of maiolica, bring context to the installation.

Emma Hart’s new installation ties in with her art practice. Her art is focused on capturing everyday experiences, including confusion, stress, and nausea. Real life experiences and feelings are key elements in Hart’s works. While Some of her works are deliberately constructed to create claustrophobic installations that engage the viewer physically and emotionally, others confront the viewer in a way that arouses reaction.

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Mamma Mia! is the result of Hart’s investigation of the visual environment and psychological behavior of the people she met in Italy during her residency. Her understanding of the conversation between the viewer and object inspired Mamma Mia! and other works. They are a direct response to how she was affected by the heat, light and color, language and family dynamics in an unfamiliar setting. Using ceramics, film, and narrative Emma Hart creates a remarkable environment that tells the story of her residency.

Hart’s residency was an opportunity to gain new experiences in areas that touched her art practice and interest. She was also able to meet connect and form relationships with fellow artists and craftsmen. That connection, as Luigi Maramotti, Chairman of Max Mara said will “hopefully continue to flourish beyond the Prize.”

In a recent conversation with Judith Carlton (Director at CGP London), Hart describes her experience thus:

I have had the most important time of my art life, and probably also my life. Being in Italy has opened me up to many new possible ways of working (and living), and allowed me to push my ideas through an Italian filter. I have started to make my most significant artwork to date, whilst also making fantastic friends. It has been magnifico”Mamma Mia!  will be on view  from  July 12 through  September 3, 2017 at  Whitechapel Gallery.

Emma Hart, Thumbs Up Thumbs Down 2017. Image: Whitechapel Gallery

MMAP. Installation view of Emma Hart at Folkestone. Image: Whitechapel Gallery

Emma Hart, I, I, I, 2017. Image: Whitechapel Gallery

Mamma Mia!  will be on view from  July 12 through  September 3, 2017, at  Whitechapel Gallery.