Sarah Burgess pushes the possibilities of drawing. In the forthcoming group show ‘Pinpoint 2’, 6th – 28th February, at One Church Street Gallery in Great Missenden, Burgess will be exhibiting samples of her unique take on drawing practice; large scale installations composed of threads intertwined with branches.
The work investigates mark making in a 3 dimensional language that integrates natural forms with man-made constructs. The use of direct light sources on the forms cast shadows that add further layers to what is essentially a 3 dimensional drawing. Her work contemplates the relationship between the man-made and the natural. We sat down to ask her about her work.
Lisa: When did you realise you were an artist?
Sarah: I always drew and made things as a child and I enjoyed art at school although the teaching was very uninspired until I got into the sixth form. My parents were both architects so studying art was no big deal, I think I was always going to be involved in art and design but being an artist is something different. I think it is about the ability to generate ideas and motivation for work without having an outside brief to work to, becoming involved in your own internal dialogue and finding ways of communicating.
Lisa: Please tell us about the ideas you have been contemplating for your forthcoming show.
Sarah: Working with pot shards emerging from a historic, local rubbish tip and the pruned growth of branches I have have been attempting to explore life and loss through moments of incident, points of change and instances of recognition. Found materials become objects of myth, metaphors for life and loss. Pruning rejuvenates; stimulating growth, sending a new shoot in a new direction. Meticulous wrapping and binding of objects highlights, demands attention and speaks of attempted repair. An imperfect or repaired object may have greater beauty than the perfect, it is an individual, unique to itself. Growing within the gallery this thicket of pruning celebrates the extraordinariness of being alive now whilst acknowledging fragility and frailty.
Lisa: What work will be on display?
Sarah: My work for the exhibition will include an installation ‘Acknowledging the Possibility of Loss’, an installation of meticulously thread wrapped branches mounted on pins, growing across a wall in the gallery with wrapped pot shards cascading down.
Lisa: How does your 3 dimensional work relate to your 2 dimensional work?
Sarah: I tend to begin to develop an idea two dimensionally, sketching ideas and making notes, diagrams but then I need to come out of my sketchbook and work with wood, wire, thread, stitch – whatever seems appropriate – but I am still drawing really.
I think it is another way of exploring the same subject matter. I like to look at things from different aspects, so it’s a way of trying to understand things more fully. Of course three dimensional work casts a shadow which forms a drawing of itself too. Sometimes I develop ideas through mono-print drawing, I am not a technical printer and I find the slightly unpredictable results exciting. Building a memory of previous drawings on my printing surface adds visual depth and I often stitch into these prints building layers of marks on the paper.
Lisa: What motivates you to create art?
Sarah: I think I am trying to understand life; the events, time passing, fragility and the amazing luck of being alive here and now. I am increasingly inspired by plant and tree growth, resilience.
Lisa: How important are the textures of the materials that you work with?
Sarah: I trained as an embroiderer and although I am not using much fabric in my work at the moment the textural qualities of my materials are very important to me. The ability of a material whether paper, cloth, wire or wood to carry messages and associations is crucial. Texture is important from a technical point of view; will the paper print cleanly? Will the thread show up against a particular fabric? But materials carry conceptual ideas too; depending on the way it is used wire can suggest something shiny, stretched and taut or something cobbled together and improvised. Then there are aesthetic considerations too…. Do I want a clean, smooth line to emphasise a mark and contrast visually with its ground?
Lisa: How do you hope the work will affect visitors to the exhibition?
Sarah: I hope that I will have left enough unsaid, left enough space for a visitor to find their own meanings and associations within the work. I know what has been in my mind as I made the work but each visitor will have their own response.
Much of my work for this exhibition takes the form of installation work and it won’t be completed until it is installed and I can’t know exactly how it will work out. I hope to have the opportunity to see how it will affect me too.
Lisa: As an artist, what do you hope to achieve in 2015?
Sarah: I would like to achieve perfect balance of quiet time in the studio and outside drawing to research and develop ideas, exciting exhibition opportunities balanced by a bit of teaching for added stimulus!
This exhibition at One Church Street Gallery, Great Missenden is a brilliant opportunity for me to explore some larger work in a gallery setting. I will also be showing installation work in Sweden later in the year at Dalarnas Art Gallery as part of the Traces of Life, Textile Study Group exhibition. I am continuing to do some mentoring with the Edge group in Scotland and I hope will be teaching at Art Van Go on the 4th and 5th of March. I am also teaching a summer school for Distant Stitch.
Lisa: What art materials could you not do without?
Sarah: My studio is an eclectic mix of embroidery tools, wire cutters, threads, fabrics, papers of all sorts and found objects but if I am going away to work I always make sure I have a selection of black pens both waterproof and non-waterproof, a graphite stick and a soft paintbrush, a sharp knife and a small sketchbook.
In the studio, I can’t do without a good selection of different types of paper, smooth printing paper, architects tracing, heavy cartridge, watercolour, tissue as well as assorted odds and ends. If I have those I can score, tear, cut, layer, crumple, wet, burn, punch, stitch – endless!
Lisa: Whats the best piece of advice about being an artist you have ever received?
Sarah: Work hard but don’t be busy all the time, take time out, go for a walk, get some distance from your work. However I don’t always do this – it is easy to carry on working too long.