In his painting “The Three Ages of Woman” (1905), Gustav Klimt represented the inevitable course of ageing. In the center: a young, flushed woman with golden-copper hair braided with flowers. She's holding a young girl, her full lips red with youth and serenely sleeping. And the third woman? She stands behind them, hiding her face in her hair and hand, a gesture of despair and body in ashy tones of grey.

When British artist Emma Talbot saw Klimt’s painting, she was as equally disturbed as she was fascinated by the patriarchal depiction of ageing – and knew she needed to re-tell the story of  what it means to grow older as a woman. In her first institutional solo exhibition, “The Age/L’Éta” is a culmination of her winning the Max Mara Art Prize back in 2019, and within it Emma has created a dystopian show, not only challenging our fears of getting older with physicality of sculpture but also through statements of the state of our environmental crisis.

The Prize, a collaboration between Whitechapel Gallery, Max Mara and the much-lauded Collezione Maramotti, has been known for kickstarting many careers of female artists in the UK since 2005. As the eighth winner of the bi-annual prize, Emma was awarded a six months residency in Italy, as well as the solo show at the Whitechapel of new work that resulted in that.

While travelling throughout Reggio Emilia (the headquarters of Maxmara Group), Catania and Rome, the artist learned about classical mythology, textile craftmanship and permaculture, all of which she has woven into a multi-media exhibition of work that can be visited at the Whitechapel Gallery until the 4th September 2022.

In silk hangings (made from recycled silk from Lake Como), a video installation, a main sculpture and sketches, Talbot processes her own struggles while discussing the challenges of the current world we live in. Among the eerie humming sound spilling from the speakers stands one of her most striking pieces: a female sculpture with silver hair, shoulders hunched in a position of attack, twisted wraps of violet fabric mapping out wrinkled skin. This statue wears her old skin as armour; she is protected by her experience.

Talbot mixes myth and modern tales, while drawing dystopian parallels between the world of the ancient Greeks and our current one. This exhibition questions what it means to age between the dooms of climate change and the male gaze, leaving the viewer – regardless of age and gender – wondering: How do we approach this new world.

All photos by Dan Weill courtesy of Maxmara

Learn more HERE.  The exhibition will then move to Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia from October 23rd2022 until February 19th 2023 for viewing.