Sarah Finney is a local artist and recent graduate in BA Fine Art from Central St. Martins having received a First for her conceptually rigorous, often philosophical practice. She is a promising emerging artist often exhibiting around the UK and USA.
Last summer she partnered with a fellow student travelling to Greece, setting up an open studio and engaging with local artists, students and members of the public to explore their artwork and ask some rather big questions. Having returned to Jersey I met with her to discuss the artwork and thoughts the trip stimulated.
The trip came about partly as a result of the unobtainable high prices of renting studios in London. In Greece they were a fraction of the price and alongside very cheap accommodation, Greece offered the artists time for reflection and observation. One of the largest Contemporary Art festivals ‘Documenta’ had recently finished in Athens in September 2017 and was fraught with criticism for how the festival omitted fundamental negative aspects of Greece’s socio-political economy of the time. Sarah’s work was perfectly positioned to become self-reflexive of the Art World itself as well as commenting on Greek Culture.
Sarah’s work is often influenced by the process of archiving; how the complexity of history, events, facts, and places preserve a sense of identity and are represented, often via very simple text and image (think of the plaques you see at museums). Sarah talks of there being an impossibility for a visitor to fully understand, grasp or even truly believe in the events documented. She uses an example for us to consider “how impossible it is for us to really grasp the idea that dinosaurs once roamed the land”. These histories almost turn into fictional stories, entertainment or propaganda for consumption, heavily empowered by institutional values which can be seen to hide difficult truths which may upset the portrayed sense of identity. Tourism creates the need for a place to reflect positive notions of a place to generate greater financial income. Beauty and value are tied together with consumerism in Greece, and against the backdrop of a sensational history the tourist industry plays up to notions of identity massively. Sarah was interested in the notion of how far can you preserve something before it changes completely.
The greed of Capitalism was one of the central themes for Sarah’s subversive work. The Art played with the idea of ‘product’, it offered a critique of the notions of trade, trinkets and souvenirs. This theme mimicked the way that historical sites (in this case the Acropolis in Athens) offers cheap souvenirs such as magnets or small models of the Acropolis. What does it mean to feel the need to take a little piece of the place home with us? Like people collecting pebbles or shells from a beach. Sarah’s visual language focuses on landscape, the terrain and the commercialisation of space. Consider the act of paying to enter a National Park. The world has turned into a ‘Hyper-real’ theme park, parts of which are able to be purchased as small fractions of the original.
The Art produced is rendered ‘Site Specific’ meaning that it referred to the particular context (place) in which it was made. The artists invited students from the local schools to engage and discuss the work shown in a final exhibition titled, ‘May Also Refer to: 1’. The title referencing academic text books or the information plaques at historical sites. Sarah talked about how there were sometimes hostile opinions from the public who saw what the artists were doing as exploitative. Taking advantage of the struggling Greek economy. Their presence was sometimes seen as ‘refugee tourism’ or ‘poverty porn’ whereby they were supposedly making use of other people’s misfortune. I think this threat poses interesting questions regarding the role of the artist. The role which can often be seen as objective and voyeuristic and the problems which can mount as a result. How much can an artist use situations as ‘inspiration’ when it concerns other people and other cultures?
The images shown are parts of Sarah’s sculptural work which confronts us with information and imagery about a false place, it begs to question which is more important: the fact that the place exists at all or the commerical bi-product of it? Sarah works with mixed media, often creating 4D rendered illustrations of landscapes which appear familiar yet obscure. She described the work as “the awful shadow of some unseen power”.
To see more of Sarah’s unique and exciting work please visit www.sarahfinney.net