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Art Works: Sarah Cunningham

6 June 15 words: Art Works
After finishing her art degree at Loughborough University, the Nottingham artists lets us in on her secrets...
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Paradisiacal - Sarah Cunningham

I'm an artist from Nottingham, just finishing a Fine Art degree at Loughborough University. This piece was created for my upcoming degree show, and is a large, imaginary landscape on a 6ft square canvas.

I started it in my studio, but I ended up finishing it at home over Easter. It was too big to fit in a car, so I ended up wheeling this huge canvas down the street in a B&Q trolley. Luckily I have a big bedroom, which is actually more like a studio with a bed in it. I'd say it took about two weeks to complete, working on it every day.

My process employs the use of poured paint, spray paint and collage materials inspired from natural forms to create mixed-media, otherworldly landscapes. This landscape borrows from the conventions of classical landscape painting and botanical art. While producing it, I was interested in the materiality of the paint, and how this connects with the material world through landscape. The integration of collaged forms, showing growths, coral, plants and tropical flora, are a combination of my own paintings, photographs and found images.

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I begin these pieces by spilling paint onto the canvas in separated blobs of colour, the resulting movement of the paint mimics natural phenomena such as organisms, microbes, coral reefs and soil. The outcome is an abstract landscape that explores ideas of beauty and toxicity in relation to the environment. I then examine the paint pours and organise them with a range of collaged forms, cut-out paintings and photographs to create an imaginary landscape. It’s about being able to spread out detail, and having interactions between multiple images and materials.

I’ve always made art about nature, but also the interaction between culture and nature. I am really concerned with environmental issues, particularly the degradation and destruction at the hands of humans. The exploration of the sublime in nature alongside the artificiality of the paint reflects upon our inherent connection to the natural world, and our continual distancing from it. The paintings portray our conflicted relationship with nature – a relationship charged with awe and fear, closeness and distance.

At the moment I am really inspired by Noël Skrzypczak, Leslie Shows, Melanie Carvalho, Wangechi Mutu and Katie Pratt. Their manipulation of paint and collage really inspired me when creating Paradisiacal, and how they expand the boundaries of landscape painting.

I’ve always made art, and decided I wanted to be an artist when I started my A-levels, and went on to do a Foundation Diploma at New College Nottingham, and then a BA Honours degree at Loughborough. I'm a huge believer in creativity, and the ability of artists to transform their experiences in others.

Sarah’s degree show exhibition is at Loughborough University from Saturday 6 to Sunday 14 June, then at the Truman Gallery, Brick Lane, London, from Thursday 25 to Monday 29 June.

Sarah Cunningham website

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