Q+Art: Margot Sanders’ Monochromatic Paintings Luxuriate in the History of the Nude Body
http://www.margotsanders.com/Like a faded bruise, Margot Sanders’ brushwork lingers, pooled under the immediate surface of her paintings. With an emphasis on mark-making, the London-based artist explores the material body through the physical process of painting. Her monochromatic works luxuriate in visceral sensation, illuminating the ongoing tension between our skin’s surface and the tangible elements that envelop it.
Influenced by a childhood love of swimming, Sanders sticks to a mostly blue and white palette. Vague shadows float under cold washes of color, like a massive sea creature lumbering under meters of uncharted water. We feel both the physical sensation of water on our skin and a nagging emotional response connected, inextricably, to our own hazy memories of water. “The blue of a bruise, like an ink stain on the skin, permeates the surface with fragmented references and traces of once-lived histories, and what lies beneath is at once veiled and illuminated,” explains Sanders in her artist statement.
Using her personal memories as a jumping off point, Sanders also looks back at the long history of the nude in art. Historically, our gaze is meant to linger over soft curves and fleshy bits from a safe distance, encouraging a level of emotional detachment from the viewer toward the (usually female) subject. In Sanders’ work, the male and female body are abstracted, magnified, and almost interchangeable. Instead of separating the viewer from her subject, Sanders lets us experience these lived-in bodies as though they were our own.
In Today’s Q+Art Interview…
Margot Sanders discusses the physical properties of the body, her extensive collection of art history books, and the importance of perseverance in an art career.
Which books, art-related or otherwise, belong on every artist’s shelf?
Margot Sanders: Why stop with one or two? I own a large collection of books ranging from fiction and ancient Greek plays to nature, cookbooks, art theory, art history, and individual artists. I love books as objects to look at, to hold, to meditate over, to flirt and read. Therefore, I'm going to say that all artists, regardless of their generation and interest, should own as many books as they can, or if restricted by space or cash, hang out in a library and see what draws you in.
Which cultural concepts, themes, or philosophies inform your work?
MS: A lot of my imagery is sourced from art history books, ancient mythologies, vintage pornographic magazines, nature books, my old childhood books, my memories growing up with two cultures, friends sitting for me, and my love for water and swimming. These all contribute to my observations of the body, usually mine but also of other female and male figures. The mark-making featured in my paintings is an extension of this, sometimes dominating the painting and consuming the figure or figures present. Recently, I find myself obsessed with the representation of rain in anime and evolution of the depiction of lightning throughout history, illuminating a space with these gentle and aggressive marks.
If you could have dinner with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?
MS: I could not give you an artist, but I can give you a painting. “Ombres Portées” by Emile Friant—the hairs on the back of my neck stand up just thinking about it.
What are you trying to express with your art?
MS: Mark-making and the physicality of the body within the process of painting, in a sensitive yet provocative manner.
Painting the body and the skin that wraps it, interchanging between the male nude and female nude. Acknowledging their depictions through art history with my own biography and my own relationship with my skin.
What do you wish you learned in art school but weren’t taught?
MS: I found art school a transforming environment for me. The ideas, the people, the freedom to just make, so I would not change much. However, if I could have learnt how paint is made and how to make oil paint, its chemistry, its limitations and strengths, that would have been so cool, and prevented a lot of mistakes.
What's your biggest barrier to being an artist?
MS: Procrastination and distractions, like rearranging the studio. I’m sure I’m not the first nor the last artist to admit that.
What does generosity mean to you as an artist?
MS: Giving time to look at a fellow artist friend’s work, and they giving you time back. That, and being given very beautiful quality paint as a gift, or better still, a good meal.
What does success mean to you as an artist?
MS: Just making and keep making. It can be so hard sometimes to make work, and I think most artists are hard on themselves for that. So if you can just keep going you’re doing well.
What role does the artist have in society?
MS: This is at the total discretion of the said artist. There’s a beauty to the scope of this statement but also a frustration of how to pinpoint it. A constant conversation. Historically, I guess it would be summed up as: Observe, sometimes comment, but mainly create.
If you had to pick one, would you rather be a historically significant or commercially successful artist? Why?
MS: Historically significant. I have a lot of art history books, so I guess I’m in that camp.
What are you working on that you’re excited about right now?
MS: I’m currently working on a collection of watercolours and oil pastel drawings that focus on the theme of aging, wrinkles, dry skin, and shells I have seen on my recent trips to the British coast. The erosion of time and air on the skin contrasted with the weathering of the sea—that fascinates me. Must be the vulnerability of it all.
How does your geographical location affect your work and/or success?
MS: For me as a painter: Colour, dust and light. I’ve lived in different countries growing up and did art residencies in various cities. The bricks in buildings, the dust that lands on your skin and furniture, and of course the quality of light, all rearrange my focus on the colours I want to paint with at that given time.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist.
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