The Rite of Spring

Our new season open on September 1st with a fabulous solo show The Rite of Spring, pop the date in your diary.


Solo show by Emma Safe

Friday 1st September – Sunday 10th September 2017

Artists Workhouse, Studley, Warwickshire, B80 7AU

11.00am – 4.00pm (closed Mon & Tues)

Works inspired by Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring exploring Stravinsky’s music through a series of shifting elemental abstractions punctuated by dancing – and disappearing – figures.

thumbnail_Spring Prelude (2016)

Emma SafeSpring Prelude, charcoal, 140 x 140 cm, 2016

Large-scale elemental works exploring Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Artist Statement:

This project developed over a twelve month period (summer 2016 – summer 2017). The works are intended above all as a tribute to Stravinsky, but they are also independent works which followed a trajectory of their own, linking with and developing themes already central to my work.

The Rite of Spring is an incredibly powerful work of raw, sometimes savage emotion. It proceeds via a series of volcanic crises, remorseless in their horror and violence. These crises are interspersed with moments of exquisite calm but rarely is any sense of comfort or ease sustained. The quieter passages seem only to heighten the sense that something terrifying – musically and in the narrative – is about to happen.

The Rite’s apparently lawless towers of sound actually rely on highly controlled structures, as if primal screamings have been somehow wrenched and churned into an organised orchestration. It is this contradiction, the “… disciplined outbursts of anarchy” as Hill terms it (Hill, 2000, p.60) which I believe gives the work its great elemental and essential power – primal control – as if our first ancestors were speaking directly to us.

In a famous passage from Memories and Commentaries (a conversation between Stravinsky and Robert Craft), in response to Craft’s question: “What did you love most in Russia?” Stravinsky described “the violent Russian spring that seemed to begin in an hour and was like the whole earth cracking” (Stravinsky in Walsh 2001, p.41). This idea (whether mythologised or based in natural phenomena) is a world away from more familiar western ideologies relating to the spring. It has powerful visual and metaphorical potency and in a variety of ways persisted with me visually for the duration of the project.

The first works I made: the Prelude ‘drawing-sculptures’ (pictured), continued throughout the project and are ongoing to this day. They explore the Rite at a general abstract level, attempting to find visual analogies for this new, violent sense of spring. They are turbulent and alive –unfrozen friezes – with dancing figures which seem to erupt from the densely applied charcoal in tempo with the undulating surface rhythms. Increasingly abstract in the later panels, all is volatile, elemental, immediate, at once a ‘Dance of the Earth’ and a human Spring.

Emma Safe 2017


Hill, Peter, Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, Cambridge University Press, 2000

Walsh, Stephen, The Music of Stravinsky, Oxford University Press, 2001



The Royal Victoria Works

Off Redditch road

Studley, Warwickshire B80 7AU

United Kingdom


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