In conversation with Irish artist Sarah Gallagher who is now based in Antwerp, Belgium. We really like the way Sarah works onto the wall as part of her process.
Can you talk about your journey into or interest the arts?
I studied art throughout school and loved it. I always saw art as the natural next step, where I would build and focus a career. After school I completed some courses which were definitely insightful. I was excepted onto my chosen university course in Fine Art. And that is where I took a u-turn. I decided at this point to transfer my energy to studying and working as a performing artist. This past decade I have worked primarily as a performer, having brief detours into visual arts via commissions etc. It has only been in the last two years that I have turned my focus back to visual arts. Which I must say has felt like a natural progression.
Do you use a sketchbook? I’m interested in what a sketchbook means to you and your work?, or how people develop their ideas.
I essentially approach even a sketch as if it were to be the finished/completed vision. I work from the wall and usually with all the same components. Eventually working until I get the essence of what my next piece should be through the initial painting. I end up with lots of idea paintings/studies, more than just having a sketchbook. Some I will come back to and try to ‘save’.
Your work is abstract in nature, what themes are you exploring in this?
Usually it is a number of things; mood and instinct play a big part. I work instinctively and when I find something that encompasses the right composition – I run with that.
Memory and nostalgia play a part also. I have worked recently on some pieces (‘Nanna’ and ‘False Memories’) inspired by old pictures of relatives. Reimagining the vision as my reality of these places and events. Making them more of a feeling and purely imaginative.
I also use other art forms to explore and break into my art. For example two paintings (‘Blind Leaders’ and ‘Dance of Fools’) are inspired by the book ‘Blindness’ (José Saramago).
The freedom abstract art gives me allows me to explore all reaches of the imagination.
Can you talk about your process of working. How do you work, how often, is there a particular pattern?
I work from a little studio I am fortunate to have in my apartment. I usually work on a few pieces at a time, starting one and then flip-flopping back and forth. Working usually on about three at the same time. They usually don’t have to be the same concept. I find focusing on one piece gives clarity to the others, so I get inspired by the time I switch pieces. At the moment (during lockdown) I am working everyday in my studio. I generally complete a piece a day, with one or two pieces having an initial structure to them. And I alternate like this. Sometimes I will have a piece on my wall for what seems like forever. I like to keep pieces in full view when I don’t feel inspired by them. I feel if I see that piece all the time, eventually, subconsciously I will find a composition solution.
Do you find the process of creating work relaxing or therapeutic? I’ve become increasingly interested in the relationship of the sketchbook and the work to the artist.
Incredibly. I find it probably the most calming activity I experience. I recall telling someone even when I was much younger ‘If you find me randomly painting, then I was probably stressed’, as it has an instant calming affect. There is a purpose and also a comfort as well as a clear inner communication for me. I feel blessed in these particular times to have a place to work and express and find clarity through my work.