12th May 2023

Sarah L Stewarts first solo exhibition is titled Simplexity, a word made from polar opposites. Does it mean that abstraction is deceptively simple? Perhaps it means that Nature, from which she largely draws her inspiration is at once familiar and complicated. Maybe it’s about herself because to some, artists can seem like simple expressive beings but no artist is ever simple.

Sarah’s abstractions are perfectly in balance. There is a rightness about each process based work where the painted and drawn objects counterpoint each other, both in two and three dimensions. Hans Hoffmann, the great teacher of abstraction, referred to the push and pull of abstraction, that process of putting down a thing, and then balancing that thing with another thing. It could be a strong tone in the corner, a textural smear of complementary colour or a subtly drawn vertical line to play against the horizontal elsewhere. This is difficult to do and requires a lot of practice to get right.

The imaginary abstract space invites the viewer to enter the painting and despite the lack of mimetic figuration these spaces have pictorial depth sculpted from the flat through the usage of subtle unsaturated colour and tonal juxtaposition. Each space is worked and reworked with sandpaper, taking away previous marks and adding linear trails that lead through this particular landscape (One Day At The Beach).

Sarah’s studio on Bruny Island has a collection of fascinating coastal debris, some natural, some not. There are subtle colours and strange textures that fade quickly as they leave the sea. Sometimes these inspire painted recollection (Marshland Dusk) but just as often the pictorial memory evoked could be of travel or even of the body (X Marks The Spot).

Abstract artists respond to the world they inhabit, their experience both visual and corporeal, remembered and imagined. In Simplexity we get a tantalising view of a thoughtful and artistically rigorous artist beginning her career as a painter.