One can notice something especially inexplicable in Sara Anstis’ recent presentation of otherworldly artwork at Various Small Fires (VSF) in Seoul. A figure rests on a hammock, barring visible ties to the branches, inspecting a giant flying feathered starfish. That wasn’t it though. Nor was the mysterious shadow hunched over at the forest opening. It’s the minor character in pink, at the foot of the silver, blonde, figure, floating, with a hand on the knee of the other. You can enjoy imagining that they are, in fact, flaunting a remarkable feat of calisthenics while facetiously preoccupied.
Perhaps, Sara Anstis’ artwork is letting us know that when we have others to hold onto, we can attain the, otherwise, impossible. Sara Anstis’ art is full of these interrogative, questioning, scenes, perhaps touching on the wealth of experiences prone to the human psyche, or perhaps not. Positively charging the imagination of the viewer in either case. Here is the artist’s interview with METAL. See Bundle on show until 2nd April.
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I love the meta quality of The Drawer. I found the scene to depict a kind of meditative state. The figure appears to emit a creative energy, and it is interesting to find a set of eyes unaware of others, protected by their bubble. Does creating art feel meditative to you?
I identify with The Drawer while also being aware of the idealisation of the act of drawing within it. The figure appears to have only one arm, as if the left non-drawing arm is so superfluous to the act that it’s been forgotten. She forgot to use it and I forgot to draw it; there’s something there about being single-minded in the studio.
Contrary to the idyll of The Drawer, the studio is a painful space to occupy. At the worst times, it is an extraction room for the unconscious, in which what’s needed for the next image is wrestled and set into cement while the reluctant patient thinks only of their next meal. Thankfully, there is also; colour, joy, form, negative space, humour, menial tasks, and other voices entering the dialogue.
Anemone stages a vital array of colours, from the stormy interior of the central figure and the fire brick red of the titular flower. Does art imitate natural life in the great sweep of chromatic vividity in your works?
I love that you picked this work to frame your question, because in this instance, it was a direct case of imitation. I was growing anemones at the time and their red was blinding. Often the paintings that stay with me, the ones I can bear to look at years later, are made almost by accident or in an overflow of small actions. Being surprised by a red flower or a similarly uncanny observation can be the necessary jolt needed to finish or start an image.
Ekphrastic writing; describing art or music with words, can be a useful prompt for setting off creative literary ideas. Have any written works held an influence on your art?
What I read finds its way into my works alongside everything else I take in. But I find writing and drawing to be useful comparatives. I dwell in half-narratives. The form of the short story, where one expects more pages after turning the last, could be a literary approximation of what I am trying to achieve through painting. Lately I have been transfixed by Bruno Schulz’s short stories.
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Pink Cloud, the part-embroidered, part-drawn collaboration has a breath-taking, self-referential quality, as in The Drawer. The drawn split-figure to the left meets and leaves in eternal Schrödinger fashion with the woven figure to the right. How was it to join forces and incorporate different forms?
Collaborating with my mother is so obvious that it should have happened sooner. It’s interesting to step away from the single-authorial voice. My work often references where I grew up and how the landscape shaped my experience of the world. There could be a parallel drawn with primary relationships, with those who raised me and taught me to see. How relationships and landscapes hold me has a big influence on my work. So, I find it appropriate, and significant, that the hand of the mother be directly visible in my work.
There is also an affinity between media, as embroidery, and pastel hold historical connotations of the feminine and the domestic, of the small and private and portable. Combining them and exhibiting them feels like holding these histories upside down.
This year alone you have published and showcased your largest exhibition to date Pencil of Rays, alongside further exhibitions in Manchester, Oslo, New York, and Paris. Do pressing deadlines or relaxed timeframes suit your artistic process best?
The work is done when it’s done, but I do my best to predict my patterns, and it’s worked out so far.
What are your plans for the coming year?
It is a year of firsts. My exhibition, Bundle, opened last month at VSF in Seoul; the first time I’ve shown in Asia. I have another solo show planned for this year at Kasmin Gallery, and this will be my first solo exhibition in New York.
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