I absolutely adore Sarah Wilson’s plaster paintings, which she considers a “cocktail” of painting and sculpture, as pigmented plaster is cast into rectangular forms. Recently having earned an MFA from Glasgow School of Art and now based in Dublin, she chats about her work, and new explorations in her practice. More at the links below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I grow up in the Monaghan countryside in the Northern part of Ireland as the youngest of five children. After secondary school, I spent a brief spell in India, before moving to England to do my undergraduate in Fine Art at Loughborough University, which facilitated lots of art experimentation alongside a diploma in endurance partying. Since then, I have completed artist residences in several countries such as Iceland, Spain, the UK and Ireland, each experience offering unique insights and ideas towards developing my practice. Most recently, I completed a Masters in Fine Art Practice at the Glasgow School of Art.
Currently, I am based in Dublin and a current studio member of Ormond Studios, which overlooks the River Liffey at the heart of the city.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I have always loved art, ever since I was a young kid I have played around with all kinds of materials. Normally resulting in the unintentional redesigning of my wardrobe and surrounding space with paint, glue, paper and lots of dust.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I adopt a multi-media approach to making, which considers the medium of painting as an interdisciplinary investigation. I explore what it is that defines an art object both in relation to it’s fabrication as well as it’s situational context. During my masters, my practice was largely installation based work whereby I looked to revisit the spatial constructs of painting by considering rooms and their architectural frameworks as one large canvas to tell a story.
However, most recently I have returned to focusing more on individual pieces of art that have the ability to stand alone as well as part of a group. In my recent work, I investigate how the use of certain materials can change our understanding of what painting is and can be. In this work, I used plaster (coloured by pigment) to cast rectangular compositions that resemble paintings. I often think of these artworks as meddlesome cocktails caught between the act of painting and sculpture. They are ‘paintings’ without any use paint, naughty outsiders that do not follow the correct procedures.
The ideas behind these compositions are sourced from my surroundings and developed from a stream of notes and collages. These compositions seek not to offer direct or representational depictions but instead they provide snippets of cut and pasted observations. I am interested in the concept of relational aesthetics and my intention is to provoke the viewer to look closer, both in relation to the context of imagery as well as the material fibre of the artworks.
What is your process like?
I take inspiration from a wide range of sources such as social structures, other artists as well as the things I see around me daily. I am always writing short notes to myself and often find that ideas blossom while doing non-art related activities. There are little things I do that I find help me get into the zone such as cycling into the studio and listening to podcasts (or sometimes just cheesy music).
I have found with my new plaster artworks, I have had to become more ordered and systematic within in my approach because of how quickly the plaster sets. A lot of my time goes into preparing the stencils and making sure the moulds, buckets and tools are ready to go. I only have one shot to get it right as once I pour the plaster no alternations can be made. It is an unpredictable process and often the pieces break before I can get them out of the moulds. However, despite my ever growing plaster graveyard – I enjoy how the process is against the clock and requires my full intention in that presence moment.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
The best advice I have received over the years has been simply just to stick at it, be persistent and enjoy making.
What is your studio like?
I work between two studios – one in Dublin and one in Tourmakeady in the West of Ireland. My studio in Dublin is part of Ormond Studios, an artist-led collective made up of eight artist studios and a project space for exhibitions, talks, residences and events. I love the supportive peer environment and the frequent discussions with the other artists that Ormond facilitates. My studio in the West is more isolated and looks out onto the shores of Lough Mask, providing a very different type of space to make work in. I feel fortunate to have the contrast of both.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
The most frustrating thing about pursing art is the balancing of time and resources. It can often feel like a rollercoaster of ups and downs but it also brings real pleasure.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Fragile, bright, cocktails
What are you working on right now?
At the moment, I am preparing for Ormond Studios annual members exhibition ‘Thinking About Blue Almonds’ opening on the 12th April accompanied by a series of events including a screening and artist talks. I am also working towards a solo show ‘Meddlesome Meeting’ that opens on the 31st of May at the Ards Arts Centre in Northern Ireland. The show will run for a month, offering an interpretation of the interdisciplinary nature of painting today.