Earth Guardian: Nine Minutes with Sculptor Emily Young

Emily Young has been referred to as ‘Britain’s Leading, Living Stone Sculptor’ by the Financial Times.

Formerly a muse of Pink Floyd, Emily currently resides alone, in a monastery in the Hills of Tuscany where she consistently produces bizarre and wonderful projects.

She is currently in the midst of her fascinating ‘Weeping Guardians’ Project, where she has been creating 12 Tonne statues, which she lowers 8 meters down on the sea floor of Tuscany in an attempt to prevent illegal trawling along the coastline.

Emily, tell us about the origins of the Weepings Guardians project

A local fisherman, Paolo Peschatore, some ten years ago, was watching his catch diminish every day. He knew local dredger trawlers were coming in by night, illegally very close to shore, and scraping up everything on the sea bed, That close in to the shore used to be a vast sea meadow of sea grasses, where fish would lay their eggs, as did myriads of other sea creatures – it was a the nursery for this part of the mediterranean sea, and with out it the sea-bed became utterly barren. This was all completely illegal, but it seemed impossible to stop.

He dropped huge blocks of concrete just off the shore, and watched as the plant life and sea creatures returned: the trawlers would lose their expensive nets on the concrete blocks, and so stopped trawling there.. He wondered if local artists, stone carvers, could help to extend the project further along the coast. He sourced thirty huge (ten to twenty tonnes) blocks of marble from Carrara. We, my assistants Johnny Cass and Louis Russell took on six of the enormous blocks, and we have now got one, ‘The Weeping Guardian’ down under the sea at Talamone, and three more ready to go down.

What materials are you using in the project?  

Carrara marble.

What challenges have you faced in bringing the project to fruition?

Personally nothing much, but for the local fisherman, Paolo Pescatore, he faced serious threats to his life and livelihood by challenging the illegal fishing businesses. He is a very brave and committed soul, and I am honoured to be able to help him fulfill his dream of a restored mediterranean.

How does the Weeping Guardians project fit into your larger body of works?

My working life for a while now has been dedicated to trying to show how essentially connected we are with the natural world, with the planet, and how the unbearable damage being done to the Earth by our selves and our fellow humans is a kind of suicide. Humans will not survive on Earth unless we change, soon and profoundly. The guardians speak for the sea I hope.

Who have been your biggest inspirations and influences in your career to date?

Ancient Greek sculptors and zen Buddhism.

Why did you decide to base yourself in a monastery in Tuscany? How has this solitary setting fed into the works you have created there?

It’s very nice to have a change of distractions, from city life of sound and filth and fury for birdsong, trees and wind. A clear night sky is a great friend . Not sure the work has changed in fact. Just I can get more done perhaps. I still think about deep space and the long time scales involved in our Earth’s history – 4.7 billion years since the planet was formed and what an unbelievably short time comparatively we humans have lived on her (200 thousand years). How clever we’ve been and how shortsighted and greedy.

What would be your advice to people seeking a career in the arts?

Be brave. Be braver. Be thoughtful. In the visual arts do life drawing.

What do you hope the rest of 2019 holds for you?

I hope humans generally get to understand what danger we’re all in and start making the changes needed to protect the biosphere. Hope.