Sarah Buckner
— The Arts Club London

Installation view: Sarah Buckner, The Arts Club, London. Image: Kate Elliott.


Installation view: Sarah Buckner, The Arts Club, London. Image: Kate Elliott.

The UK debut for Cologne-based artist Sarah Buckner, the Arts Club London exhibition displays Buckner’s latest body of work. Painted in her studio in late 2022 and early 2023, Buckner’s canvases reveal recent artistic developments, stemming from profound moments of introspection and inspiration from literary materials. The pieces on display demonstrate a thoughtful and dramatically expanded visual vocabulary.

Buckner’s paintings combine inspiration from real-life encounters with her imagination, resulting in distinctively dream-like, atmospheric scenes charged with emotional potency.

Her unique approach to oil painting enables her to create a distinctive environment imbued with mystery. Indeed, it is through a lengthy gouache-like treatment of oil-paint that Buckner’s fluid yet intuitive approach to the medium transports viewers to fantastical spheres. The material properties of paint and expressive possibilities of colour serve to approximate the foggy sensation of memory.

The use of a muted colour palette reinforces the element of mystery emanating from the compositions. These hues are characteristic of Buckner’s work, lending them their otherworldly quality and negating them from a clear sense of time or place. As the artist explains in a recent interview: “Over the years, I have developed my own personal palette, which of course continues to evolve. It’s important to me to find the right tones to ‘sing the song’ I want to sing, so to speak.”

The narratives in her paintings are drawn from a plethora of influences, from film, fables, personal experiences or observations, some of which sparked from the people and places visited during and after her studies under renowned figurative painter Peter Doig. Imbued with feelings and traces from encounters across Morocco, Peru, Bolivia, Italy and the U.S, the paintings portray a spectrum of emotion, from moments of anxiety, shame and confusion to playfulness and hope. However, their distinct aura defies straightforward analysis or recognition, instead prompting viewers to engage with the work on their own terms.

Buckner’s artistic process is often one of spontaneity, where chance plays a guiding factor in the development of the compositions. However, the figures and scenes she depicts appear precisely observed and layered in meaning. Ghostly yet infantile, Buckner’s characters are defined by their surreal undertones: neither real nor imaginary, they come to life in the space in-between. Frolicking across the canvas, their pointed, expressive faces give nothing away. Female figures are a recurring motif in the artist’s practice, often in pastoral settings or enigmatic activities – sometimes in historical or mythologizing costumes, sometimes nude. Meanwhile, the painterly, whimsical backgrounds often play host to seemingly incongruous objects, such as a sock and buskin; in Buckner’s dreamscapes, symbols can be many things simultaneously, signifying opposite meanings without contradiction.

The exhibition is curated by Amelie von Wedel and Pernilla Holmes of Wedel Art, with special thanks to Esther Schipper Gallery.