Emily Young. The Sable Gallery.

November 1999

Publication: The Times

Emily Young describes some of the processes involved in creating her sculpture as more akin to drawing than to sculpting.  This makes sense because  many of her large heads — created mainly from Portland and Purbeck stone — bear etched markings which suggest an eye, hair or other portrait features. 

Young’s great strength is that she works with her material, not against it, and this sensitive and respectful ability to yield to the medium produces startling and often unpredictable results.  The evident fastidiousness with which she chooses her initial block of stone is dictated by the potential she feels it holds.  Because of the nature of the fractured bedrock from which the stone is quarried, the blocks rarely exceed more than a couple of feet in any dimension.  The edge of the block is usually dictated by a fissure and is heavily oxidised, after years of exposure to the elements.  It rusty surface, sometimes layered with quartz, is not therefore seen as a flaw, but rather as an inextricable and valuable component of her medium.  In ‘Janus’  (1999), for example, these immensely tactile and varied surfaces form both sides of the god’s face.

Young, like all good artists, has borrowed heavily from the work of the past; but this genealogy strengthens, rather detracts from, her purpose; and instead of mere copying she has taken a tradition which extends as least as far back as Cycladic art and made it her own.  Perhaps her greatest debt is to Picasso, whose classically inspired figures have a bearing on her work, not least for her ability to synthesise views from two opposing perspectives into one.

Young has obviously eschewed the dictates and demands of the fashionable art world to pursue her ends; anything less would, of course, be disingenuous.  Her vision must have been very lonely at times, but single-mindedness combined with talent and the ability to push her ability to the limits, have resulted in work which transcends current vogue, to reveal something archetypal and, apparently, very much in demand.


The opening exhibition of the Sable Gallery seeks to form some kind of cohesive whole from the work of a number of artists —most of whom are Scottish — including Robert Callender, Richard Demarco, George Wyllie and Dawson Murray.  The work is too disparate and patchy for this to be in any way convincing, although a number of individual works stand out as being of real quality, particularly a number of seascapes by Marian Leven who recent tendency towards semi-abstraction is highly successful.  This move has allowed a real freeing of the imagination to develop and as a result the works convincingly convey the mood of the western Scottish seaboard in storm. 

Works by South African artist Robert Slingsby seem curiously at odds with the rest of the collection, creating a real sense of imbalance.  The work  is done no favours by being shown so much out of context, but in itself seems full of undirected and unfocussed energy.

The Edinburgh art market is notoriously difficult to alter; from the evidence here, that  situation will not be changed significantly.


Emily Young

Ingleby Gallery

6 Carlton Terrace


17 Nov - 8 January

Wed - Sat 10am - 5pm

0131 556 4441


The Sable Gallery

29 B Dundas Street


0131 467 3937

Until 20 Nov


Published in The Times, Around the Galleries, 14-11-99