Sarah Needham

About Sarah

I start with the way in which pigments leave material colour across human history and geography leaving traces of our interactions. The projects chosen have resonance with the now. The form of the work is abstract spaces to fall into. I make oil paints by hand from the relevant pigments. 

I make abstract paintings, spaces to fall into get a little lost and remember.


Archaeologies 1
Sarah Needham: Archaeologies 1

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 50x50cm

Price: 900

Part of the archaeologist collection Completed in 2020 that peculiar year, the Archaeologies Collection was made in a process of layering up pigments in oil in time order with the oldest pigments at the base building up towards the newest. This seems to work best in oil and is a slow process. and produced a small collection, completed in October. Some pieces were made layering up pigments where the colour comes from mineral rather than organic sources, some from organic and some from both. They are layered in the order of time with the oldest pigments closest to the canvas and the newest closest to the paint surface just like the earth in an archaeological dig.. Now coated in a final layer of UV protective varnish. This series was started early in lockdown 1. They have taken along time to dry because of the multiple layers of glazes. I have enjoyed the way that colour emerges through colour or blocks colour as a metaphor for historical cultural influences...sometimes we see them and sometimes we have forgotten that they are there, a useful contemporary metaphor. ​Hidden within some of the pieces are references to the landscape of my childhood. I was brought up in the South West where there are barrows dotted across the chalk lands, humps and bumps that interrupt the flow of what is largely downland. I remember the car ride when my Mum explained what they were, I was small it was in the 70s when some of the barrows were being excavated. Since that time so much more has been learned.... traces of migrations and cultural practices...influences...treasure. The main meaning sitting behind these pieces is the way we are influenced by culture directly, culture from our pasts, but also that time is not linear in an easy sense , the way we look at evidence from our past is influenced by our present, and the present is influenced by our past. Sometimes we hide uncomfortable truths, and sometimes a particularly dry year comes along and exposes everything.

Below
Sarah Needham: Below

Medium: oil on Arches huile paper

Dimensions: 200cmx125 cm

Price: 6200

Part of the Small Ports and Sea Coves Collection Materials The material basis of this collection are pigments with a relationship to the history of the South West coast of England, particularly Dorset and Cornwall. The mining related pigments are based on iron, copper, aluminium and kaolin. The sea trade based pigments are indigo, woad, ochres and madder. There is evidence of trade in madder, ochres and woad from Europe in the Middle Ages and in indigo from the colonial period. Then there is mud-rock ochre a pigment derived from the earth of the Jurassic coast, from a clay formed from eroded materials before people walked on the earth. And sea brick ochre made from bricks from cliff fall houses which have been eroded in the sea. ​Form The abstract forms in these paintings contain echoes of the material reality of the South West Coast: The particularity of the South West Coast with its small coves comes as a result of the impact of sea erosion on the land which was formed as a result of a dynamic geological history, involving heat and magma, periods of cool and water, volcanic activity and ice, the movement of tectonic plates, intrusion and metamorphosis. Bands of rock of differing densities hit the coast, and are eroded at different speeds, as the sea pierces a harder band a cove forms as it reaches the softer band behind it. Over millions of years the earth moved. Making the Series This collection grew out of the collection before it (From the Earth and Sea), researching the arena of my childhood holidays, places which formed me and my ideas of the world and also of beauty. I grew up near to the coast of Dorset and visited regularly. We went on holiday to Cornwall every year for the first 9 years of my life. These places are at the heart of who I am. Much of its history was well known to me already, but in revisiting that history I wanted to explore the metaphorical richness it holds. In particular in my head was a playback of the stories of piracy, smuggling and privateering . The notion of hiding in plain sight. The way in which booty was hidden just below the surface when disguised as lobster pots, the way in which the low tide may reveal all. The way a changing landscape makes something possible that was not possible before, and the way that layers of meaning are hidden within. Intention I wish these pieces to be unprescriptive, I choose to work in the abstract to leave space for the relationship the viewer needs to have with the pieces. My hope and my joy comes from connections made. As always I am making abstract spaces, in this case playing with forms from landscape and hoping that the viewer will fall in get a little lost and remember.

Glass Bead
Sarah Needham: Glass Bead

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: 60x60cm

Price: 1200

From the Cobalt Collection The Cobalt Collection started with research into the South London potters and the development of British Delft Ware. This involved the use of cobalt blue in the form of smalt on white porcelain, a style and technique which originated in China. Prior to its introduction British made ceramics were largely coloured using green copper glaze or slip ware which was earth tones. The “new “ 16th century technology was a result of the expertise coming into Holland from China through the Dutch East India Company. Then that expertise coming into Britain as the result of Dutch and French refugees bringin the expertise with them and then settling in what was then the outskirts of London. At the time “foreigners” , and that meant anyone born outside of London were not allowed to settle in the City of London, so the potteries grew up in Southwark, Vauxhall, and bringing the expertise and coloured glazes with them. After a lovely conversation with a potter and British Museum Educator in my friends garden it grew into research into cobalt pigments all together and the colour traces they have left as evidence of trade which goes as far back in England as the late Bronze Age in the form of glass beads, probably Mediterranean, found in a UK burial pit which may have been as a result of the trade in Cornish tin or copper with the Iberian Peninsular and then in turn with Phoenician traders there. So from the British Museum Collection I have found an evidence base of the making and trading of Cobalt pigments in glass, from 500BC, in ceramics from I have produced a series of works which using cobalt pigments and earth pigments, a selection will be at the Other Art Fair in London, a further selection in New York and a selection in Roy’s People Art Fair on the South Bank near where those refugee potters worked.

Phoenician Blue
Sarah Needham: Phoenician Blue

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 60x60cm

Price: 1200

From the Cobalt Collection This Cobalt Collection started with research into the South London potters and the development of British Delft Ware. This involved the use of cobalt blue in the form of smalt on white porcelain, a style and technique which originated in China. Prior to its introduction British made ceramics were largely coloured using green copper glaze or slip ware which was earth tones. The “new “ 16th century technology was a result of the expertise coming into Holland from China through the Dutch East India Company. Then that expertise coming into Britain as the result of Dutch and French refugees bringin the expertise with them and then settling in what was then the outskirts of London. At the time “foreigners” , and that meant anyone born outside of London were not allowed to settle in the City of London, so the potteries grew up in Southwark, Vauxhall, and bringing the expertise and coloured glazes with them. After a lovely conversation with a potter and British Museum Educator in my friends garden it grew into research into cobalt pigments all together and the colour traces they have left as evidence of trade which goes as far back in England as the late Bronze Age in the form of glass beads, probably Mediterranean, found in a UK burial pit which may have been as a result of the trade in Cornish tin or copper with the Iberian Peninsular and then in turn with Phoenician traders there. So from the British Museum Collection I have found an evidence base of the making and trading of Cobalt pigments in glass, from 500BC, in ceramics from I have produced a series of works which using cobalt pigments and earth pigments, a selection will be at the Other Art Fair in London, a further selection in New York and a selection in Roy’s People Art Fair on the South Bank near where those refugee potters worked.

Up the Road From Penzance
Sarah Needham: Up the Road From Penzance

Medium: Hand made oil on Arches huile paper

Dimensions: 126x180cm

Price: 6200

Part of the From the Earth and Sea Collection A collection of works made using pigments from or grown in the earth and traded over the sea, pigments that have a relationship to the South West of England and particularly its coast, the area where I grew up, and the place I longed for when travel was not allowed. In the summer of 2020 and 2021 when I was able to fulfil this longing I visited Hampshire, Dorset Sommerset and Cornwall, collecting images of the ancient landscape, researching pigments and collecting materials direct from the land. I was drawn to the ancient sites, to the landmarks in barrows which look like fertility symbols while marking places of burial. To the standing stones, and the forms that repeat through history. To the role of this area as a conduit of people, ideas and trade, with legal and piratical. And as always to the evidence of cultural exchange and the richness that comes from the movement of people. I spent some time in the studio making madder pigment, ink from spruce, verdigris, pigment from Jurassic mud rock and other clay earths, as well as hand making paint from other pigments like woad, indigo, ochre , and earth green that have a relationship to the trade and history of this very ancient area. Ever since I was a child travelling through these landscapes the connection between the ancient and modern as held me. People so different and yet ultimately the same. cultures leaving traces, of places travelled to and people who came. The very cyclic nature of things, of love and loss of sex and death in cycles of birth life and endings.

Magpie Shoes
Sarah Needham: Magpie Shoes

Medium: Hand made oil on canvas

Dimensions: 120x120cm

Price: 2800

Concerned with the period in the late 1800s and early 1900s when many traditional pigments were chemically analysed and synthetic versions were made. I currently researched the pigments concerned, madder, indigo, the ochres, carbon blacks, oak gall ink and the synthetic versions, and entered into a period wondering about both the science and the thought processes behind them ,and how they relate to now, to our relationship with the earth, with our past, and ideas of continuity and departure, passing things on, fertility of biology and of ideas, distillation, purity, and methods of production. There are a lot of questions floating about in these pieces. This is a project illustrates the the way I work in general collecting information, and ideas, making work while in the process of collection, some of that work makes it out in the world, others stay in the studio, taking their role as learning pieces, some end in the bin! SO I collect and collect, information, ideas, experiences, and then resolve over time into a collection, I think of this process like the sea, stirring things up in a storm, collecting all the particles in the water, then settling into a calm when the deposits can settle on to the sea floor in a new order, and some things are deposited on the beach and left outside, until the whole process starts again.. One of the features I like bout ochres dug from the earth and indigo, madder or oak gall from the plants of the soil is their individuality, their variance, their unpredicatblily, a kind of variation and at the same time these qualities also give them their traceability to where they were dug up or where they were grown, and in the case of indigo, not just where they were grown bu the place the plant originated from. The process of standardisation through chemical distillation means that the chemical pigments are reliable, consistent, permanent, uniform and rootless. Finding titles, tiles of work and tiles of projects sometimes arrive unbidden, and other times appear along the way. So some of the thinking that is going on behind this project is concerned with scientific discoveries that were happening at the time, and the greater understanding of light, and the spectrum and associated ideas. In addition there were troublesome philosophical notions of purity, which spilled dangerously into political narratives. In a sense the distillation of colours into one spectral hue echoes this. Useful for Chemistry, and for science in general but dangerous when applied to people. Natural pigments tend to be less pure in this sense and it is actually one of their richnesses. Notions of economy come into play with the development of new pigments that tended to be cheaper and also far more concentrated and so suitable for mass and uniform production. From the Alchemy to chemistry collection The period was unstable, a period of flux and change fuelled by technical and scientific discovery, political, economic and philisophical change. It was a society in flux.

My Work

Each collection has a historic or geographic specificity: I have visited the 20,000-year-old cave paintings in Pech Merle and learned about the material traceability of ochres and that a prehistoric artist might have travelled long distances: Researching the British Library archive I found the historical spread of cobalt-based glass and glazes through archaeological finds, which illustrated the expanse of cultural exchange during classical and pre-classical times. Researching the pigments listed in the Bristol Library’s Presentiment Papers (1770Jan-June), I found evidence of transatlantic indigo just like St Katharine’s (see below), but also of madder, ochre and verdigris in a little pocket of peaceful trade between the European wars. I looked through The Admiralty papers at the National Archive, to find pigments in ships captured by privateers during the Anglo-Dutch Wars. Inspired by Turner’s Slave ship I have researched the pigments imported into St Katharine docks at the time of the abolitionist movement, and found indigo, a slave trade product, making it a colour of exploitation as well as beauty: I have looked at the evidence of Turner’s palette at the Tate, for the new pigments, at the turning point from a predominantly Colonial and alchemical to an industrial and scientifically based society. Always looking in these points of change for relevant echoes of our current flux.

The form my work takes is abstract spaces, spaces to fall into to get lost and to remember. I owe a debt to twentieth Century artists for the freedom to play in these colour fields, to Rothko and Frankenthaler, to Kandinsky, to Sonia Delaunay and breakthroughs with colour as substance. But also to the unnamed Church painters of the Middle ages for whom pigments had their own symbolism. Technically the medieval dislike of palette mixing, which was a question of material interference, echoed for me in retaining the integrity of a pigment for the story which it holds. And to the developments of oil painting by the Northern Renaissance artists and into the Southern Renaissance, and the technical traditions of glazing which allow me to layer and lends me an understanding of paint as a suspension of pigments which can be layered like strata.

My understanding and expression come through the exploration of these colour traces of our thought and history and the way in which the material holds its own story. That we must remember our human story, how we got here, how this society came into being and what the costs were is a given. There is a sense in which these colours hold more than the formal record, they hold nuance and space for connection, for potential and extant symbolism and for the stories never told.


Exhibitions

Exhibitions 2020-2022

  • East Finchley Open Art Houses, June-July 2022
  • The Other Art Fair, The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane E1, 17-20 March 2022
  • Decorative Art nd Textiles Fair with Thomas Spencer Fine Art , Battersea, Jan 25-30 2022
  • Winter Art and Antiques Fair, Olympia with Thomas Spencer Fine Art, Autumn 21
  • The Decorative Art and Antiques Fair, Battersea with Thomas Spencer fine Art, Autumn 21
  • Bath Antiques and Decorative Art Fair, with Thomas Spencer fine Art, 21
  • The Other Art Fair, London, Autumn 21
  • The Affordable Art Fair, Kahn Gallery Stand, London Summer 21
  • Water|Land, Irving Contemporary, Oxford Summer 21
  • Summer Exhibition, Silson Contemporary , Harrogate, Summer 21
  • Solo Show at vintners Place, London May-Nov21
  • Letters From A Strange Year Pop Up, Columbia Road, London April 21
  • Autumn Show, Silson Contemporary Art Gallery, Harrogate, October-Jan 2020
  • Winter Land, Nov- Dec Irving Contemporary, Oxford
  • Artists Walk, Community Art Project North London, art in windows across North London, 14Nov-14Dec 20
  • Highgate Contemporary Art on a postcard, Highgate contemporary online, Nov 20

Earlier 2020

  • Summer Show, Gallery Artists,  Silson Contemporary Art Gallery Summer show August-September 2020
  • Unframed Highgate Contemporary Unframed online show   May 2020
  • V-Art.Show Online open studios April/May /June editions 2020
  • Art on a Postcard with Highgate Contemporary Art in aid of Feed NHS sold out April 2020
  • The Other Art Fair Online Studios, on Saatchi online April to October 2020
  • Beyond Other Horizons: Contemporary paintings made in Britain and Romania,  Iasi Palace of Culture, Iasi Romania.    1st- 31st March 2020. The exhibition will open on 3rd March 2020 with a British Council Symposium. Curated by Anna McNay, Peter Harrap and Florin Ungurianu closed early due to CV then extended to April 
  • Mid-Winter Show, Silson Contemporary Art Gallery,  Harrogate, Yorkshire, Mid Jan-April 2020 Moved online
  • Many of the planned shows and fairs were delayed postponed or as in the below cancelled due to Corona Virus
  • Affordable Art Fair New York with Kahn Gallery, Spring: Cancelled 2020
  • The Other Art fair London and New York cancelled 2020

Late 2019

  • Makers and Craftsmen Project, curated interior by Bergman and Mar, Chiswick to winter 20
  • Kahn Gallery at the Affordable Art Fair, Hamburg 14-17 November 2019
  •  Luminaire Arts Gallery,  Beyond Abstracts, 7 Denbigh St London SW1V 2HF Nov-Dec 2019

Recent Competitions and Juried Shows

  • 2019 Makers and Craftsmen, Curated by Bergman and Mar,
  • 2018 The Black Swan Open selected by Johnny Messum, of Messums Wiltshire, Michael Eaves of Glastonbury Festival, Steve Burden Artist, Debbie Hilliyard of Hauser and Wirth, Sue Conrad Artist
  • 2018 Long listed for the Secret Art Prize selected by gallerist Eleni Duke
  • 2017 Creekside Open- selected by Jordan Baseman senior tutor at The Royal college of Art 

Representation:

  • Galleries
  • Highgate Contemporary Art Gallery, Highgate High Street, London, N6
  • The Kahn Gallery, London exhibits globally at The Affordable Art Fair
  • Silson Contemporary Art Gallery, Harrogate Yorks
  • Irving Contemporary Art, Oxford
  • Online Sales Platforms with Art Agencies
  • Saatchiart 
  • EPORTA
  • Artists Agents
  • Cramer and Bell, UK
  • Luminaire Arts, UK
  • Artiq, UK
  • Artful, UK
  • DAC Artist Agents , USA
  • Publications:
  • Beyond Other Horizons, Iasi Palace of Culture 2020
  • Collections: Held in private collections in the UK, Switzerland, France, Australia, USA, the Middle East and Japan
  • Graduated with a degree in Fine Art and Education from Hatfield Polytechnic 1989, a Masters Degree in Development Studies from South Bank University1994 and studied traditional Chinese Sumi-e ink painting  under Prof Ding in Jiangxi China 2015-7

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