Sarah Wren Wilson. A Snake, A Ladder

Every work of art is a child of its time,

while often it is the parent of our emotions.

W. Kandinsky, On the spiritual in art, 1946.

More than ever, we all are like suspended fragments in this alienated world where we are living a discontinued and liquid life due to the pandemic. This isolation is becoming part of our everyday life, and it is affecting all levels of our society, but, probably the artists are the ones best suited to face solitude. Indeed, every artist like every literatus needs their own time to think about, internalise emotions and translate them into art. This is part of being an artist, a creative and imaginative person capable of alternatively performing reality.

Dive, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 30x40cm.

Sarah Wren Wilson’s body of works selected for this artist book demonstrates how an artist, and in this specific case a painter, was able to turn into paintings made by colours and forms, pigments and brushstrokes what was surrounding and influencing her during the latest lockdown. Her most recent works are so indirectly and inevitably responding to the urgency to react creatively at these times.

Sarah Wren Wilson’s oeuvre consists of synergic paintings where the colour finds the body in every thickness, and its intensity is determined by the artist act after act, idea after idea like a sequence of letters that are composing a word and even more a sentence. This comes from a dialogue between the artist and her painting like a sequence of words and thoughts. It is a narrative process that comes to her mind constantly involved in the research of inspiration, a suggestion, an idea able to release emotions on the canvas perpetually responding and repeating variations in colours and forms. Each painting, even if it is a wholly autonomous work, is indeed part of a series of interlinked artworks as a sort of continuation of a bigger and deeper storyline between the artist and her art.

This flow of thoughts is comparable with the stream of consciousness well known in the Irish literature, thanks to James Joyce, who was one of the pioneers of this narrative method. Here we are in front at something quite similar, Wren Wilson’s painting process issubjected to many external stimulations, visual and acoustic catalysts, and personal emotional experiences of whom she always takes note. These notes represent the first step for the artist to start a new painting, the representation in colours and forms of her words and experiential world. This mix of happenings and feelings – tidily collected day by day in her everyday life – have an essential role in the dialogue between the artist and her painting, a soliloquy that represents the research of looseness, to cross over the restrictions of time and space. During this conversation, what is outcoming is an organic process made by a series of accidental struggles and frustrations, and deliberate marks and colours in a perpetual tension researching the equilibrium between the aesthetic and the awkward spontaneity of the artistic gesture. It seems like she is unlearning to paint as many masters did before her, like Pablo Picasso. He stated that he spent his lifetime painting like a child, therefore to pursue it, she is taking many risks to realise seemingly odd and intuitive paintings. Actually, each choice and act is the result of her own thought out action based on her pragmatic experience and knowledge.

Bouys and Currents, 2020,
acrylic and ink on canvas, 35x45cm.

Sarah’s ambitious aim leads her to delve deeper into a personal and peculiar visual vocabulary where intense colours, irregular frames, overlapped forms and asymmetric geometric compositions animated the common flat surface of a canvas which becomes an intrigued place where colour takes form. Her impactful pictorial language possesses a powerful colour scheme. The canvas becomes the bearer of colour, and Sarah’s compositions convey a completely unique experience to viewers. Moreover, the colours take on a previously unknown dynamic of their own. Her colours appear to flow on the surface and to find their arrangements as if by chance. With this type of process, the reverberations of abstract expressionism can also be felt in Wren Wilson’s work, but above all, her work is influenced by the dissolved reality. It is a battle between control and uncontrol, the overlapping and fading of borders and categories.

Fundamental in her work is also the materiality of paint, plastered pigments create a concrete texture, an embodied surface where each mark is meaningful of an unknown world. Her painterly elements stand first and foremost for themselves, acting upon the viewer as suspended fragments of sense. Her non-objective paintings create her compositions out of flat basic elements. These arrangements of forms are not in turn organised into representational associations, but they follow an order imposed by the sequence and connection between colours. «A painting is essentially a flat surface covered with colours in a particular arrangement» declared in 1890 the French painter Maurice Denis, and this demonstrates the primacy of painterly means over their representational function. In Wren Wilson’s paintings, the painted colours and forms ultimately manage without the reference system of the exterior world of objects but in relationship with personal experiences and so the fourth dimension.

Sarah Wren Wilson’s Studio at MART, Dublin, 2020.

It becomes a journey into the artist’s world. For Sarah, painting become an instrument to express and expand time, to blur the slighted and switching borders of her paintings to find always a new development of this painting tour. Every artwork is therefore the blank page of an artist’s journal where every mark is related to each other as an innovative tale of forms. Sarah Wren Wilson’s traditional basic colours have both tactile and translucent quality, spatial and visual property, and they are a pivotal part of this intuitive, apparently randomised, decisional process of telling simply the essence of suspended fragments through her abstract narrative compositions.


Liquid: the word ‘liquid’ suggests the current state of instability and uncertainty, the idea of a traditional society that moved away from a ‘heavy’ and ‘solid’, hardware-focused modernity to a ‘light’ and ‘liquid’, software-based modernity. (Z. Bauman, Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000).