28 June 2011

Sarah McNulty


Can you briefly describe what you do?

I make paintings. I also make drawings, objects and projections in relationship to the paintings. They are primarily abstractions, often with ties to the physical world and destructive elements of it, though ultimately I’m far more concerned with the materiality than any subject.

What drives you to make work?

The possibility of immediate, physical images that may alter experience and reveal greater truths.

Can you tell me something of your day-to-day working practices?

I spend a lot of time in the studio surrounded by my paintings, maybe 15 or so on varying surfaces, as well as images, drawings and found/made scraps. I go back and forth between surfaces and scales, which vary between human and handheld. The surfaces of the paintings (their solidity, depth, edge and detail) play a strong role in the development of the images. 
A good deal of the time is spent looking and rearranging various constellations, making dumb work, photographing them to view them differently, reading, listening to music.  The paintings are often worked over, layer after layer, built up and scratched back.  Sometimes they form out of the remains of previous paintings, by re-use of materials or refinement of certain elements of imagery.
Action comes in frenetic bursts after long periods of stillness. I am interested in materiality taking over, when images and objects turn and deceive, suddenly becoming foreign. This happens when they writhe and jerk, as though outside my own physicality. Braced by the tension of making and ruining, they frequently become something not foreseen as an end-point, where a linear route of actions recedes.

How long have you been working in that way?

For about the last 5 years the work has become more focused in the particular direction it seems to be heading.

Which artists have had the greatest affect on your work?

Guston never ceases to have a wild impact upon viewing. Also Mary Heilmann, Raoul de Keyser, Richard Tuttle, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Manet, and Velazquez have been important recently.  I think the other artists that I spend time in conversation with on a regular basis have the greatest affect.

What, outside visual art, informs your practice?

Natural and manmade disasters, uninhabitable landscapes, decay, absence. I’m also quite fascinated with the idea of beasts.  
I watch a lot of film, and am partial to the uncynical beauty and awkwardness of Herzog’s, and Villi Knudsen’s volcano films are some of my favorite footage. 
I’m also interested in linguistics and translation, whether words or images, and usually studying a foreign language.  It’s been Danish for the last couple of years.

How would you like people to engage with your work?

I think that looking at work should be an active process. Ideally, I would like it to really take over when viewed.
Have you seen anything recently that has made an impression?

I keep thinking about the scene in Jean-Pierre Melville’s ‘Doulos’ where Maurice digs out a hole in the earth under the lamplight to hide the stash. It’s a beautiful scene, so tactile, all thrashing hands and flying dirt under the glow.
Also some interesting work by Phil Root, Paul Housley and Lydia Gifford in recent shows.

Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?

I’ve moved into a new, bright studio not long ago so am looking forward to getting to work in it now that it finally feels like a space I understand. Also the second half of a recent show I was in in Munich will take place here in London early next year.

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