August 27, 2010

Sarah Sanders

During the Not at This Address exhibition I curated last July (blogged at the time) I noticed that most of the younger artists involved had very little sense of how to deal with a larger gallery space. This is not surprising really: young artists first show at degree shows which offer them a display space the size of a cupboard; if they are anyways successful in their early career they might show at an artfair, and these spaces are just slightly larger cupboards; after that it's a succession of small galleries or group shows, the latter offering little experience in spatial judgement either. Artists develop their practice and therefore the size of the spaces they show in over years. Young artists rarely get the opportunity to respond to the challenge of a big gallery. I got to wondering what would the young artists whom I rate do with a large gallery. What would they learn? And what would I learn too? So when Bury Art Gallery had a gap in the programme (due to a major chunk of its historic collection touring the far east), the chance to find out was available.

The first to get the opportunity was Sarah Sander, a young artist whom I have been championing for a while - I showed her in the last Text Festival and in Not at this Address. Phil Davenport also included her live writing act in William Blake & the Naked Tea Party.

As one would expect, Sarah admitted that the challenge of responding such a large space was quite daunting, but Sarah is a performative explorer. In consultation with assistant curator Kat McClung-Oakes (a talent that should also be acknowledged), Sarah interweaved two fields of experiment - a personal response to the more obscure more recent figurative acquisitions to the collection and her articulation of visceral drawing qua act.

This combination merged into a fascination with paper itself as a form of drawing, and a dialogue with an artist she found in the collection (of whom I had never heard!) called Paul Hempton with a compositional obsession with triangles. Her installation has taken the form of a discovery of a balanced hang of the focal Hempton's plus some figurative but vaguely and unintentionally cubist landscapes also from the collection in conversation with her exploration of the geometry of the triangle within the format of modern paper proportions. The paper experiments, some drawn some folded, some cut, form a spatial rhythm around the space. Part joke, part first breakthrough, part seminal moment, privileged on a focal plinth with case she located her first terrible lump of paper folded - as far from origami as a lump of carpet. Interestingly this celebrated clumsy failure magnifies the subsequent finese of her artistry. As she installed floating pages hanging in mid-air this act too became performative which led to a final action in the installation on Friday in which she silently took a sheet of paper and like a video stuck in a loop walked to a specific place, threw the paper into the air, collected it from the floor, sliced it in half, returned to the spot, threw the 2 halves into the air, collected them from the floor, sliced again, on and on in a minimalist rhythm of beautiful simplicity.

The result of Sarah Sanders project is an abstract handling of space that is restrained, romantic, multi-centred and lyrically reminiscent of the cubist townscapes of Lionel Feininger.

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