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Sarah Symes was born in British Columbia and has an academic background in architecture and design. These foundations are definitely visible in her textile work. Sarah Symes makes extremely colorful textile paintings, enhanced by geometric shapes and stitching which help outline the subjects.
In Sarah Symes’s creative expressions, I see elements which remind me of geometric abstractims, made popular by avantgarde artist Piet Mondrian. What do you see in them? Read the interview and find out. Enjoy!
You went from studying architecture to becoming a textile artist. How that happened?
I have been making art with fabric since I was about 10 years old. I won a place at London’s top architecture school and was taught by some of the best tutors and professional architects in Europe. The teaching methods were intense and demanding and I learned how to translate a high concept into a workable design. But my heart wasn’t in it. I found the discipline of architecture too far from my passion for shape and colour. Intent on continuing with a structured path to an art career, I changed course to graphic design. After working as a designer for a few years I began to invest more personal time into my fabric art. In 2007 I found gallery representation in Los Angeles and I have been working as a professional artist ever since.
You chose to follow the path of geometric abstraction. What fascinates you about this artistic language which transforms objective reality into something else?
My work is fundamentally geometric because of my technique - simple shapes, like squares and triangles are easier to cut than organic shapes. These shapes then become the building blocks which I appliqué to a backing cloth to create a work of art. It's an improvised process, like painting or collage, enabling the gradual build up of colour and texture. I have no interest in simply recreating a subject. My fascination lies in recreating a subject as I remember seeing it, layered with the memories and ideas it evokes. I try to conjure emotion through colour and manipulate composition to suggest familiar forms and landscapes, making it accessible for others to see what I see.
What are the most important stages in the creation of one your works?
The four stages of my process are: design, dyeing, making and finishing. All are important and together they are the technique that I have been refining for over a decade. The design stage involves researching, sketching and working up ideas. The dyeing stage involves washing, bleaching, painting and dyeing a supply of fabric. The making stage is the longest part involving ironing, cutting and sewing hundreds of pieces of fabric to make up the design. Some of my projects follow the design with precision, others are more intuitive and allow room for freedom of expression. Finally, the finishing stage involves carefully stretching the fabric over a wooden frame and attaching the hanging hardware. Each piece is a unique, gallery quality work of art.
The Havana Streetscape series is an explosion of pure joy! Would you like to tell us about it?
Havana left me with a lasting impression of spectacular decay. Its ancient core is a half-crumbling, half-restored patchwork of colourful streets dating back to the origins of the new world. I spent time experimenting for this series, revisiting my photos and sketchbooks, striving to distill Havana into its simplest forms. Eventually I began layering the dominant scene colours in vertical strips to create a sense of depth and perspective. This resulted in a rhythm of shape and colour that was recognizably Havana. I used a top stitching technique to further soften the colour contrast and create a wrinkled texture reminiscent of the crumbling stonework. Each piece depicts a street scene, but I have also tried to capture the ambiance of the city as a whole.
Landscapes are among your favorite subjects. What landscape do you hope to be able to see and portray in one of your works?
I would love to visit Antarctica. I have seen spectacular mountain ranges in Canada and they have given me a taste for more. The Rockies are a natural landscape so remarkable, they deeply touch all who visit. What is it about soaring rock faces, vast icefields and perfect blue-green lakes that transfix us with its beauty? Antarctica is surely the most extreme mountain landscape on earth and I think being there would inspire important questions about humanity and result in a powerful series of artwork.
Looking at your works and your life choices, one has the impression that you have a deep connection with Nature. If you could talk to a tree, which type of tree would you choose?
I would climb a mountain, high above a city and choose the highest, strongest, oldest looking tree. A tree that has watched over us for generations with many stories to share and wisdom to impart.
Check out the website of Sarah Symes
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