We met the New York based artist Sarah Elise Hall at Bushwick Studios on a recent excursion to the Big Apple. Sarah was presenting her latest body of work that draws on the exploration of systems.
Think: Ali Farka Toure & Ry Cooder, Amandrai
Work: Pantha du Prince, Saturn Strobe
Play: US3, Canteloop (flip fantasia)
1. Your work is abstract, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Originally my inspiration came from the body; its structures and systems… bones, vascular, neurological and nervous systems. As my work evolved it became a visual exploration of systems in general. I started thinking about the interconnection between environmental, corporeal, viral and man-made systems and how they evolve, adapt and mutate.
2. Are your relief paintings a development from your past work with sculpture?
Yes, definitely. My work with sculpture got me thinking about painting as an object. My current body of work reflects my interest in finding the intersection between painting and sculpture, where the work is neither and both at the same time.
3. What has been the strangest object you have drawn inspiration from?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. Lately I’d say it’s plastic plants. There’s something extremely funny yet disturbing about them for me. Our quest for manicured and everlasting nature leads to the falsification of nature, which is kind of scary. I see plastic plants as a symbol for altered nature… they make me think about genetically modified organisms, environmental changes, etc.
4. What inspires you to get up in the morning and get creative?
My studio is a kind of lab where I’m constantly testing new ideas and materials… so I guess my inspiration comes from my curiosity. I wake up with an idea of what I’m going to do that day and I can’t wait to see how that idea plays out in the studio.
5. Has there ever been a time when you wished you had a 9-5?
No, I’m no good with 9-5. I find it stifles me. I work in my studio every day, but there’s nothing pre-determined about what’s going to happen or when. I may not have the financial security that comes with a 9-5, but I’m okay with that. I find things have a way of working out when I’m pursuing the thing that is most exciting for me.
6. What creative person from history do you most admire?
I don’t think I can just name one person… I guess I tend to admire people who accomplish things in the face of adversity… I think it’s amazing that Beethoven continued to compose music even after he became deaf; Mary Wollstonecraft was an advocate of women’s rights in the 18th century – going against popular mode of thought at the time…. the German mathematician, Georg Cantor, grappled with the concept of infinity his entire life and pushed his field of mathematics further, while also struggling with mental illness… Frida Kahlo created amazing work throughout her life despite being in and out of the hospital and dealing with chronic pain… I have a long list of people I admire. Those four give you an idea…
7. Where do you come up with your ideas, is there a special place or do random places spring up best ideas?
To be honest, my studio is the best place for me to come up with ideas; it’s where my mind is most at ease which allows for ideas to start percolating… but going to see what other artists are up to is also good; it helps me think about my work in the larger context. Good shows in Chelsea get me thinking (I just saw a great show of Lucio Fontana’s at Gagosian) as do good museum shows. Biennials are always interesting even if I don’t share the curator’s view. It’s just good to see how other people are thinking about similar ideas. Art is a conversation, and after considering what other people are saying I think about how I want to respond and contribute to that conversation.
8. Where is your studio, or work place?
My studio is in an enormous warehouse building in Ridgewood, Queens right on the border of Bushwick. It’s packed with artist studios and it also houses a few great galleries. I’ve been here for about three years and I love it; it’s a great community
9. Unwind, party – do you have a favorite place?
I spend so much time in my studio that I usually just end up going out to the local neighbourhood haunts with friends. It’s easy. But sometimes for a change of pace I like Williamsburg or the Lower East Side. New York City parks are also great places to socialize in the summer. But really, particular places don’t matter that much to me. It’s about the company.