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Sarah Youseman

Keen followers of the WeAreOCA blog may remember a post about Drawing 2 student Sarah Youseman’s Parallel Project. If not, you can read it here.
When that was posted, Sarah was beginning her Drawing 2 course. She has now finished and the Parallel Project culminated not in a traditional painting or static image, but in a film of her making a painting. As her tutor I am privy to some of the thinking behind this final, bold, work and I want to share some of the influences Sarah drew on to change and push her practice in order to make her film. This aggregation and conflation of work/approaches by others shows how contextual research can contribute to a developing practice without simply mimicing them.
Starting off with an interest in an area near her home – which also intrigued artist Prunella Clough – Sarah explored some of the process at work there. It’s near Gravesend, part of the Thames estuary. The natural processes at work in tidal spaces is exploited by Richard Long to make large wall drawings. While these two artist might not seem at all similiar, Sarah pursued both of them in terms of her own work. Her critical essay was a ‘compare and contrast’ piece on Clough and Long, culminating with Sarah plotting her own position in relation to these two very different artists.
Throughout the Parallel Project, Sarah mentioned a feeling of exclusion from the area with which she was concerned. It’s being redeveloped and is closed to anyone not in a hard-hat, high-viz vest, and a reason to be there.
One final piece was added to this strange jigsaw when Sarah saw the film of Picasso painting on glass. She recognised that he was painting himself out of the image, as well as making an image. Exclusion through the making of a barrier between artist and viewer. Pulling these seemingly disparate elements together, Sarah has made a work that eloquently builds a barrier between the viewer and her, as well reflecting her feelings relating to parts of her locale.

It’s important to note here that not everything Sarah did worked as effectively as this final piece. She experimented with time-lapse film and other novel ways of making images. Although these don’t directly inform this final film, the fact that she experimented helped her make better decisions, which did feed the work.
All in all, Sarah has made a surprising and effective piece that doesn’t stray far from her initial concerns and motivations, but finds a way to present them that isn’t just illustrative. It embodies the disruption and exclusion she feels, as well as striving to break that down. By being open to influence and being confident enough to appropriate bits of other art works for her own purposes she has begun to position herself in relation to other artists and to really push her practice into new and surprising areas.


Posted by author: Bryan
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3 thoughts on “Sarah Youseman

  • Interesting to watch how Sarah tackles this and, at the beginning, I could see how she was working out how to do the writing back to front . The exclusive process that can occur in re-development can be a lengthy process and I think this was mirrored in the slow nature of the video. At times it seemed too slow to me but then I became drawn into trying to guess what she would do next. A really good example of how an artist can reference another artist whilst retaining their own professional identity and creative view.

  • I was intrigued watching this, recognising similar places I’ve seen in parts of the image being created. There was a sense of regret at the end of something good and promising wantonly destroyed.
    The process intrigued too – we (the viewer) could see clearly what had been painted at an earlier stage, but the creator couldn’t see that any more – from her point of view she had obliterated the past. A metaphor, perhaps, for the old-timer resident who sees the past as more vivid and significant than the developer, who only sees the latest surface appearance of things.

    • The process was the replication and illustration of the barriers followed by the destruction. It was difficult to nominate what the art actually was: a performance, a film or the finished pile of glass. I collected the shards and sealed them in a glass box but it was not possible to send these in for assessment obviously. The obliteration of the painter was integral to the sense of exclusion rather than metaphor but I’m delighted that you have found the piece thought provoking.

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