Tuesday, 23 July 2013

5 Questions With... Artist Sarah Elizabeth Martin

Sarah Elizabeth Martin

A lot of your recent work appears to reference wild animals - foxes, deers ect - what attracts you to this subject matter?

For a couple of years, up until recently I was living on the outskirts of Sydney where there is a lot of housing development going on. For the first time in my life I was seeing wild foxes in suburban landscapes. It was so surreal. There was one road in particular I had to take each day to get to Uni, each week there would be a fox or two that had tried to cross the bypass and not made it. I'm one of those crazy animal lovers who worries about cows being cold in the rain, so to see that was just so devastating, it kind of consumed my thoughts. From there I developed some concepts for works. On one hand, the animals I paint serve as metaphors for a number of contemporary dialogues and issues relevant to today. On the other hand, they are projections of myself and little insights into my own relationship with the world and people around me.


Sarah Elizabeth Martin,  Animus – mixed media on board, 18 x 18cm

Why do you choose to create small scale works?

I started working on a smaller scale when I hit second year at art school and chose painting as my major. I think I freaked myself out a little. I was surrounded by so many talented students, the more intimidated I felt, the quieter my artistic voice became. At first, I started doing small works and studies because I was too scared to present my ideas on a larger scale. I never intended to make a series of small works, but when I tried some larger pieces, the subject matter didn't translate as well and they weren't as honest. There was something about the small scale that worked and I've been playing with it ever since. I like the way small works draw people in. A delicate watercolor painting of an animal can be quite seductive, visually pleasant from a certain distance but on closer inspection, it can be a quite violent and contradictory scene. - the animal may be in a fight for its own survival. I enjoy the way the scale lets me play with the fragility of my subjects. It wasn't a conscious decision at first. 
 
Sarah Elizabeth Martin, Bipedality - watercolor and gouache, 9.5 x 8.5cm


Sarah Elizabeth Martin, Buzzard Meat – watercolor, 12.5 x 9cm

The detail you create is incredible - how long does a work take to complete? Do you have a specific process?

Thank you, it usually takes a couple of weeks, depending on how much I fuss over details! I have a little tremor which means I can spend ages just making the tiniest of mistakes and correcting them. It takes me awhile to call something 'finished' too. I tend to spend a lot of time sourcing images and photo-shopping them, there's no specific process, just a lot of drawing and contemplating takes place before I even think about painting.  

In 2009 you entered the Archibald Prize with a portrait of James Morrison. Why did you decide to enter and what was the experience like?

When I started studying fine arts, I was really all about portraiture. I was kind of scared to enter any competitions and I didn't really want to show anyone my work. I knew that my shyness might hold me back in the future so in a little moment of bravery I thought.. perhaps if I entered the Archibald, being such a massive deal, nothing else would seem so scary in the future. James is actually my Godfather. Having a subject I've known my whole life made me feel so much more confident in the process. It was a real challenge for me to work on such a large scale and put myself out there so early on in my artistic career. My goal was never to be selected, but just to be a part of the experience, gain some confidence, and to learn something along the way. And it worked, I had such fun and now the thought of entering competitions or putting my work out for the public eye doesn't seem so daunting. 

Describe your practice in 5 words.

  curious
  evocative
  innocent
  romantic
  consequence


Sarah Elizabeth Martin, Vulpes Vulpes - watercolor and gouache, 9 x 7cm

Sarah Elizabeth Martin, Obsequium – Mixed media on board, 18 x 9cm

Sarah Elizabeth Martin, Shedding Life – watercolor & gouache, 30 x 30 cm

Sarah Elizabeth Martin, Tiananmen Square – watercolor, 57 x 57cm

All images supplied by the artist.
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