Emma Talbot presents ‘21st Century Herbal’ at Frieze London 2022

The winner of the MaxMara Prize introduces her special project for this year's fair entrance – ambitious silk hanging inspired by medieval manuscripts and the healing properties of plants

in Frieze London , News , Videos | 27 SEP 22
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Frieze has detailed further programming highlights for Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2022, which both take place from 12 to 16 October in the Regent’s Park, London. Central to this year’s line-up is special artist project by Emma Talbot showing at Frieze London. Watch the above video to hear Talbot introducing the work.

Emma Talbot will install a new work at the fair that stretches the length of Frieze London’s entrance corridor. Titled 21st Century Herbal, Talbot’s work will take ‘Herbals’, medieval illustrated manuscripts that describe the healing properties of plants, as a starting point to create a 28-meter-long painted silk hanging garden.

Emma Talbot, Primrose.
Emma Talbot, Primrose.

Talbot includes cross sections of seeds and flowers for identification and references herbs that have long been associated as medicinal; salves for wounds, rescue remedies, treatments for depression, aids for childbirth and memory enhancers. In other panels, she describes plant based hallucinogenics and poisons used for witches flying ointments and spells, offering expansive psychodiverse experiences.

Emma Talbot’s large-scale radiant paintings, drawings, animations, and sculptures incorporate simplified figuration, mythological motifs, rhythmic patterns, vivid colours, and calligraphic texts to express aspects of Talbot’s personal and interior experiences as they extend to topics ranging from technology, nature, urbanism and ecopolitics to the pandemic and aging.

Emma Talbot, Datura.
Emma Talbot, Datura.

Following recent first-hand research examining the principles of permaculture as a guide to future survival, Talbot’s focus turned to ‘Herbals’ – medieval illustrated manuscripts describing plants and their uses for healing the sick. Using the format of the Herbal, to share particular properties of flowering plants, Talbot extended the information to include contemporary knowledge as well as ancient beliefs. This contemporary Herbal proposes that the medicinal properties in nature might act as a resource for our own survival and advocates for the urgent preservation of the resources in nature as vital for human ongoingness.

The figure in Talbot’s work is both an avatar for herself and a faceless universal figure, exploring and reflecting on gathered information as a way of sharing knowledge. The figures in 21st Century Herbal float in the space of nature, punctured by deep views into the universe; humans as part of the natural world in free fall. Alongside factual information, Talbot poses existential questions about our relationships to and with nature and the magical gifts locked in the natural world.

Emma Talbot lives and works in London. She studied at Birmingham Institute of Art & Design and the Royal College of Art. She is the winner of the 8th Max Mara Art Prize for Women, her exhibition ‘The Age/L’Età’ is at The Whitechapel Gallery, London and will be at Collezione Maramotti, Italy in October. She is included in ‘The Milk of Dreams’ at Venice Biennale. Her work has previously been exhibited at DCA Dundee, Eastside Projects, Birmingham; Kunsthaus Centre D’Art Pasquart, CH; Arcadia Missa, New York; KM21The Hague NL; Turner Contemporary, Margate; The Freud Museum; London; Lisson Gallery, London, Galerie Onrust, Amsterdam, Petra Rinck Galerie Düsseldorf, Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Germany and Tate St.Ives. She has forthcoming exhibitions at STUK Arts Centre, Belgium, Kunsthalle Giessen, Germany, and Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany. 

Emma Talbot is represented by Galerie Onrust Amsterdam and Petra Rinck Galerie Düsseldorf. 

Frieze London takes place 12 to 16 October in the Regent’s Park, London.


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Main image: Emma Talbot, Raspberry Leaf.