One to Watch

Sara Roberts

Sara Roberts is an Australian artist pursuing an MFA in Painting at Sydney College of Arts. She received a Bachelor of Visual Arts with Honours in Printmedia from the College in 2011.

Sara’s expressive paintings are nostalgic reflections of once-familiar places. She is concerned with ideas of personal and cultural identity, stemming from her own experiences of relocating many times in her life. Sara dubs herself an eternal foreigner, as she was born in Sydney but grew up in Mexico, France, Sweden, and Poland. Her landscapes are ethereal combinations of places remembered and imagined.

Sara has exhibited across Australia, most recently in Retroneers at Chrissie Cotter Gallery in Camperdown. She is currently preparing for an upcoming exhibition, RETRONAUTS, at ANCA Gallery in Canberra, Australia.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

I have felt like an eternal foreigner growing up and living in different countries. I learned to belong everywhere and nowhere. I walked through new thresholds again and again, starting from scratch several times. I often felt the need to carry with me the memories of a place. That same sense of not fully belonging was compounded when I finally returned home to Sydney, my native birthplace, and found myself feeling like an outsider in a place that was meant to be the most familiar. My journey consequently made me reflect on my past memories, weaving them together and spurring me on to be a painter. Since that time, I have examined with fascination the beauty and harshness of the landscape in Australia. I endeavor to create environments that embody both the foreign and the familiar, places that seem to be both real and imaginary. Therefore I create scenes and characters that strive to transform the boundaries between the illusionary and the real, between essence and artifice. 

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

My supervisor at university, an amazing artist, often says, “There are a lot of things that are interesting in this world, although make sure you stay focused on what is essential and important to you”. And my mother, who is also an artist, always tells me to paint what is around me, to use my own material. And that is very true. My best paintings, more often than not, come from my own experiences.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

There are times that I prefer to work with music, most of the time to get the energy and the inspiration to start painting. Although when I get into the “zone,” when it becomes just about the paint and the canvas, I really enjoy complete silence.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

It would definitely be Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket by James Abbott McNeill. I go back to that painting time and time again. It gives me a deep sense of peace, and it always feeds my creativity. The figures are barely there, disappearing and fusing into the landscape, and there is a sense of something both threatening and beautiful happening. In this painting, James is able to both capture a dream-like world and the representation of a sober, lucid everyday. These things are what I strive to find in my own work.

Who are your favorite writers?

My favorite writers are always what I am reading in the moment. I get so passionate! Right now, James Elkins’ What Painting Is and Voltaire’s Candide are my top picks.