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Opening up to the unknown: Twin meets artist Sarah Braman

22.05.2017 | Art , Blog | BY:

Sarah Braman focusses on large-scale sculptures which interact with their surrounding environments. Born in New York, Braman has cultivated a distinct aesthetic which sees a melange of vibrant colours rendered in various materials – from perspex to scrap metal pieces. The resulting works offer captivating interplays between the private and the public, wherein exhibits invite an engagement with their surrounding space, as well as engendering emotional response. As her first solo show in London comes to a close this week, Twin spoke with Braman about creative spaces and finding the perfect object.

Your work is often large scale, and often involves familiar objects that you render unfamiliar through new juxtapositions – how do you decide what to work with?

I tend to work with what is around me, things I find at home or in the yard or on the road. I am a regular at the town dump and Salvation Army in my town. Sometimes I get a slow burn desire for a specific object and then I open my scanning to a larger periphery to try to find that thing. 

Do you feel an instinctive pull towards certain types of materials?   

Yes I have always had a love for transparency.  I guess light feels like such a gift and always changing and transparent glass or fabric allows that to do its magic. I also love everything about wood. I love its density, it’s colour. I love that when I paint on wood there is already a subject in it’s grain.  It is also true that in carving wood every piece is so different from every other. Even out of the same tree the different chunks have such a variety of qualities. And I like furniture and junk form day to day life. I like automotive parts because when they are taken in parts they work as much as pieces of architecture as the do pieces of cars or trucks.

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What has most surprised you when working? Do you often pair materials and see them in a wholly new light?

When I use a material or object and it transforms to something I don’t expect that is the best feeling. It doesn’t happen all the time but its part of why I keep making art, trying to get to those moments.

What stories and themes do you most enjoying telling or exploring in your work?

That is a really hard question. I feel like I work best when I am detaching from thoughts about what the work is or should be.  But to this same point my friend Pascal said to me recently this is an important time to take ownership of our choices.  This also seems true.  The truth is that I really don’t know what I am making, but that said; I do have desires and feeling of what I hope the work can be.  I really want the sculptures to operate as objects that exist on their own, not as metaphors or symbols or stand-ins for anything else.  I hope that the sculptures can lead the viewer into an experience that is truly abstract, that is, one that cant be described by words.  I hope that the viewer could some how be ungrounded in this experience and that while they may have feelings or thoughts looking at the piece that they are at the same time unable to tie all this together in a way that they can understand.  I guess this is all to say that I hope the work can open people up to the unknown, and more specifically, the unknown that exists in every moment of our lives.

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Who have you been most inspired by, for this exhibition and more generally throughout your career?

My mother built our house when I was about five years old.  I think the experience of watching her take down an old tabbacco barn and slowly build a house out of it has been one of the most inspirational experience in my life and in my art.  For sure being a mother and the inherent imperfection of the day to day of raising children paired with the absolute perfection of the love shared has been a guide for me in the studio.  This also is true for my relationship with Phil.  With him I think the deepest value is having someone that I feel completely safe with.  I think when I can have a place of comfort and faith to go to, it allows me to follow the work to the edge of what I understand, and get to a place that is maybe all wrong and fucked up.  After that I would say my involvement with CANADA and the artist that form that extended family.  Of course there are many artists from art history and contemporary art that influence and inspire me, but the proximity I have to the artists makes the effect and inspiration that much more intense. I could list a whole lot of artists and works of art if you think that would be helpful and interesting let me know and I will write back with that.

I’m interested in how you reconcile the more rigid space of a gallery with large-scale works. Do you feel that it inhibits the viewer’s ability to interact with them, or is it the reverse?

I hope that it draws people into an experience that is complex. Some people have said that they are intimidated at first by the presence of some of the larger works, but that as they start to walk around the pieces they get comforted by the humanity in the details and start to let down their guard and engage.

What is it about volume and scale that you enjoy? Do you begin each work with a smaller visualisation?

I almost never do small studies or small maquetts. When making large work I usually start directly with the materials/objects or use large sheets of cardboard or plywood if I am trying to work out the planes.  I think I am drawn to large scale because of the direct body experience when you are standing next to the sculpture. I like having the opportunity to surrender to the sculpture and I think the large scale helps move me towards that.

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You also established your own gallery. Given that you work so much with space and sculpture, did you seek to invest a kind of higher sense of art in the gallery itself, where each exhibitor played into   a relationship with the existing space, or do want artists to exhibit independently within the space?

The gallery was really my husband Phil Grauer’s idea. He invited a rag tag group of artists to join him in his vision. I was lucky enough to be in the vicinity at that time so I got swept up into it. It has been one of the great gifts of my life to be able to participate in his vision over the last almost 20 years.  Getting back to the question you are asking, we really try to let the artists steer the handling of the space in whatever way that they need/desire. I think if there is a larger creative desire underlying the gallery it has to do with creating a space for a web of artists to be in conversation with each other and who provide support and context for each other.

What are your future projects?

I just finished a large sculpture for a show at The Brant Foundation curated by my colleague, fantastic painter and friend Sadie Laska. It’s a small shack type structure that was made for a group of friends to play music in.  It’s also filled with books I have collected from the town dump.

I am just starting to work on a few outdoor sculptures.  One is for an exhibition organised by artist Matthew Day Jackson and is taking place in Jackson Hole Wyoming in time for the solar eclipse happening at the end of Aug.  Matthew has generously offered to fabricate the piece out there.  It is basically a glazed shipping container that is stuck in the ground at a slight angle.  It will also be a vehicle for music performance and makeshift reading room.  The other outdoor piece is for an exhibition of public sculpture at UMASS Amherst which is especially exciting for me because my son is in his final year of college there studying computer science.  And lastly I am working on a solo show for the fall for a wonderful dealer Linn Lehn in Dusseldorf Germany.

Sarah Braman is at Marlborough Contemporary, 27 Apr 2017 – 27 May 2017

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