Artist inspired by rural upbringing
Although it is called painting, one could mistake Sarah Gordon as a builder when she has her tools in hand.
In front of the canvas Sarah can be found without a brush — instead, she is armed with blades and trowels made of silicone and steel.
Her latest exhibition at Tairāwhiti Museum, Weathered Beauty, is a reflection of the two Manutūkē farms she grew up on.
The paintings recall the sun-beaten countryside and the people who make a living from the land.
“Through many layers of paint, I seem to get back to my old days of long dry grass, sheds, hills, trees, a farming family and of course, those long, hot summer days,” Sarah told the museum.
The technique she uses is called encaustic painting, where she layers colour and wax to give a lightness to her work.
The technique dates back at least to the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians in the first century.
“Each layer will only have one pigment, so one colour, and hopefully light in between the layers.
“Then I scratch back between the layers.”
“It's applying layers and scraping back. It gives it a nice rustic feel,” she said.
“Whenever you remove paint you never know what you will see.
“It's expected randomness. Things appear and I just stop.
“It brings the painting alive.”
Her paintings can be stacked with more than 40 layers.
Her art is sometimes an impression of the world as she sees it and at other times it is abstract, leading the viewer to make their own assumptions about what they see in her work.
“I like sitting back and hearing what people say.”
Sarah always liked drawing and painting although it has taken a lifetime to get to where she is today.
“I didn't pursue it straight after school and got into science and things.
“I always thought I'd get back to it. I ended up doing landscape design so still ended up with a pencil in my hand.
Then in the early 2000s, she got back into painting and people started to buy off her again.
“It has been a process to get here.”
Sarah grew up in Manutūkē where she first started sketching, drawing and painting.
“It was the source of inspiration for the Weathered Beauty exhibition. I focused back on the farms. They were an early influence on everything in my life.
Sarah describes the works as sort of an ode to her parents who worked on farms in the area.
“It's a mixture of recollections and then going back to visit the farms, and looking in old photo albums, and talking to my siblings about how they would climb over the sheds. We all made houses in the haybales. They are just nice memories being put into the paint.”
These days Sarah lives with her partner in the Coromandel after living in Wellington for three decades but still visits Gisborne often.
“They're two great spots.
“People say, ‘oh a six-hour drive,' but to me, it's like going home both ways.”
Weathered Beauty is showing at Tairawhiti Museum until November 28.