What are your major influences?
I would say film is the greatest continual influence on my work. Particularly the films of John Waters have had a profound affect on my aesthetic, in that they have really encouraged me to find my own artistic voice and not be constrained or afraid to censor myself in any way. The 1993 classic True Romance has been very influential on me — I even named my Camden Market clothing label ‘Clarence & Alabama’ after the lead characters, back in 2003 (I started out illustrating and selling my art on tshirts). It is the candy coloured, sun-drenched, palm trees and cheap motels combined with Elvis, rockabilly and ‘white trash’ culture that has saturated my work the most. I try to take in two movies a day, and can often spend a day in the city cinema-hopping and binge-watching five or six films. In terms of other artists, over the years I have enjoyed the work of Antoni Gaudi, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Julie Verhoeven, David Downton, Antonio Lopez, Jamie Hewlett and many, many more.
Your works contain an incredible amount of visual detail. Do you feel like this helps to create a story?
I think for me the layers of mixed media help to keep my work open to interpretation. I love to work with texture and to always have something on the page or surface I'm working on when I begin to draw the lines, even if it is just a touch of spray paint splatter. It removes the fear of a blank canvas and helps to create depth and volume.
What sort of influence does fashion have on your aesthetic, having worked with Stella McCartney and recently with Gucci?
(The Gucci piece was not commissioned by them, it's a personal piece). When I worked at Stella years ago, I did a lot of research into collections we worked on - and this really highlighted the importance of doing so in my own work. For every project, I spend time looking into the themes and ideas involved, taking reference photos or sourcing them, and researching via books, magazines, museums, galleries etc, and the internet. I assisted in print design at Stella McCartney, which definitely helped naturally guide me into printing my work onto textiles - plus I added my newly discovered love for beads, sequins, embroidery and embellishment to my own work from there.
You live on a semi-rural farm in Queensland, but your work is very linked to current events/nations; e.g. Je Suis Charlie, Remain, Mickey Mouse – how do you feel about this international/current events tension?
I spend 3-6 months of the year in cities - usually London, New York, Melbourne and Sydney, and I get my inspiration fix whilst I'm there - taking in people and culture, shows etc. Then I bring it all home to my farm studio and channel it into my artwork. Social media and news/current events do very often leak into my work too. I am motivated by the politics and perversities of popular culture, and who we collectively are at a particular moment in time.
Each work seems to be a story, an idea … do you start with something in mind? As in, you visualize it when you’re out and about and then need to put it down on paper/wood later?
My work is very conceptual ad involves a lot of research and collaboration. I always work from reference, and wherever possible I like to stage a photo shoot in order to create my own reference to work from. I like to give myself every possible bit of visual stimulus and information before I begin a piece. But I never have an exact pre-conceived idea of how a piece will look before starting out - I simply plan the composition, and the colour and texture form organically.
What projects are you working on now?
I am currently creating lettering for the credits of an upcoming webisode series for an Australian client. I'm also working on my ongoing series inspired by Coney Island, New York. And of course...
V∆ND∆L & Art Pharmacy Present…
ART AT NIGHT: 'RAINBOW WARRIORS' BY SARAH BEETSON
Interested? RSVP here.
Exciting times for the Art Pharmacy crew! We are celebrating Art At Night with the launch of our new gallery space. Located in V∆ND∆L’s recently renovated creative warehouse in the heart of Redfern, our first exhibition is a visually beautiful sacrifice on the altar of Sydney’s Art Month; featuring the international rainbow designer/artist/star that is Sarah Beetson.
The British Beetson has in the past has exhibited in Paris, New York, London, Adelaide, Sydney, working with heavyweights such as Stella McCartney, the Wall St Journal, MAC and The British Fashion Council. In addition, she has been shortlisted for such works such as, ‘YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU EAT’; providing a commentary on eating disorders, the fashion industry and the media. Largely, she sees her work as addressing the ‘Politics & Perversities of Popular Culture’.
For V∆ND∆L/Art Pharmacy, Beetson will be presenting ‘Rainbow Warrior’ – a reflective “curation of my most colourful subjects and characters over recent years. A saturated army of portraits spanning celebrity worship, fashion, dreams, sex and selfies - each is a manifestation of personal identity, strength and vulnerability, whilst also being a study in colour.”
Deeply introspective, ‘Rainbow Warrior’ will “(be) concerned with figuring out my place in our world and culture, and within the politics and perversities of our collective moment in the time; (as well as being) very much dominated by a wealth of colour. This seeps into my physical self and the way I dress, right down to my rainbow hair.
This collaboration between creatives marks not only a stunning exhibition by Beetson, but the launch of an energizing new space, which will be characterized by progressive values of creativity, craft, art, design and innovation within an exciting new gallery.
Interested? Grab a champagne, your best art-viewing specs and meet us at 16-30 Vine St, Redfern and RSVP here.