My paintings examine concepts of Time and modes of expressing temporality. In my current body of work I have sifted through art history to find many ways the passage of time is expressed visually and to combine these traces into abstract works using a range of materials and techniques. So far I have focused on five modes of temporal expression: Light, Motion, Stillness, Counting, and Memory.
One of the inspirations for my current body of work comes from the apocryphal story of the ancient Greek artists, Apelles and Protogenes, competing to draw the “perfect line.” I became fascinated with imagining this perfection and concluded that the perfect line is a horizontal as the horizon is always part of our visual field. However, what I find interesting about the horizontal is the breaking of it, the interruption, whether it is a blade of grass standing up, the broken horizontal bands of reflection on water, the mechanical repetition of an EKG, or perhaps merely the suggestion of the horizontal line interrupted continually. Taking these thoughts further, I researched the ways the horizontal line functions within human perception and have found that while we are vertical creatures, standing on two feet, science finds the horizontal is comforting and calming, a line that is meditative and sublime. Ironically the perfect line then is the flat-line which medically, as in an EKG, equals death. The interruption then, becomes a representation of life itself, the repeated jolt of the beating heart.
From the ambiguous moment when color and form hover between the abstract and the particular my current paintings study the function of line, form and gesture, the play of light and color, the translucence of paint and how to capture movement in stillness. I am a firm believer in the slow process of looking and manipulating paint. On the one hand I follow tradition painting mostly with oil paint but on the other, I use many non-traditional tools to paint with; sand paper, clay shapers, and squeegees as well as brushes and dental tools. I paint on wooden panels, paper and metal sheets. Recently, I have begun a process oriented experiment about time and the horizontal line as a timeline in which I create digital negatives of my drawings that I print using cyanotype technology on hand sensitized paper. The print is coated with clear acrylic and then painted using either egg tempera or oil paint. The idea is that each layer of the work uses materials and technology of different eras and thus accentuates temporality while fusing time into a series of painted gestures.
Photography is an integral part of my practice, akin to drawing or sketching. I gravitate to images that either edge into the abstract, and that are about line, form and light or the large vista. I am not concerned with what the photograph is "of" in a literal sense, instead I like to subvert the actual and bring forward the movement of line and light, the captured glance and glint of color as if painting.
My interest in photography started as a small child with a brownie camera and a darkroom inhabited by my brother and father. Later I trained as a film-based photographer, and therefore appreciate the feel of film and the process of the darkroom. The magic of an image coming to life before my eyes is one of the reasons I enjoy working with alternative processes like Cyanotype and Van Dyke Brown Type. Of course these old printing methods also allow me to play with our sense of time and memory. They encourage us to see and to look in new ways because of the softness of the images and the usual color palette. This also speaks to my paintings.
Sarah Grew has been creating work involving painting, photography, installation, collage, and eco or environmental art for over a decade. She has completed several public art projects as well as having work in private collections internationally. Grew relishes discovering places that are new to her and has traveled widely through Europe, Southeast Asia, and parts of Mexico to expand her cultural awareness and enrich her work. Currently she lives, paints and takes photographs in Eugene, Oregon.