Artist Sarah Lee only paints at night, when the streets of New York City, wherever she keeps her studio, feel equally tranquil and perilous. Doing work in all those wee hours, Lee helps make paintings of mysterious nocturnal forests that seem to be to glow from the inside out. Though figments of Lee’s imagination, these forests hint at the artist’s preoccupation with nature, as a respite and a threat. Entering her Crimson Hook studio, a single notices that her walls are cluttered with imagery—a copy of Millais’s Ophelia and images of the Northern Lights are pinned to the partitions.
When Lee’s paintings have normally occupied shades of deep blue, a new solo exhibition of her works at Albertz Benda, “Two Skies,” engages across monochromatic registers of greens also, with hints of chartreuse. The visuals are of peaceful and unoccupied, supplying times of respite in our oversaturated environment.
We lately caught up with the artist in her studio to listen to about the audio she listens to and the artists that inspire her.
Tell us about your studio. Exactly where is it, how did you find it, what type of house is it, and so on.?
I moved to New York Metropolis in 2018 and labored in a 250-square-foot studio in the East Village for five yrs. When I was searching to go to a larger sized house, I was privileged to uncover my current studio in Purple Hook, Brooklyn, through Gertie’s Dwell/Work listings. Pink Hook has a special vibe. It’s close to New York Metropolis, but it also has a unique community come to feel, like a smaller village. My studio is on the major ground of an aged 3-story building around the pier and the industrial zone. It was previously the office environment of a theater enjoy and musical manufacturing organization. The ground ground, with its dusty ambiance and mysterious glass wall, at the time served as a wedding ceremony venue. I was drawn to the quirky historical past of the making and fell in like with the space the moment I observed it. My favorite element of the studio is the abundance of windows. The shifting mild in the course of the day enables me to playing with shades and luminosity, and this generally presents me new suggestions in my get the job done.
How numerous several hours do you ordinarily shell out in the studio, what time of working day do you truly feel most effective, and what activities fill the bulk of that time?
I devote most of my working day in my studio, from close to 2 p.m. to midnight these times. My operate hours depend on how shut I am to my present thirty day period. From time to time I have to rest in excess of on the studio sofa, while other instances I only expend 4–5 hrs per day in my studio. But even when I’m not portray, I like being in the studio. It is a position in which I truly feel comfy and motivated. For me, inspiration does not always strike me out of the blue. It usually finds me when I’m in my studio, mentally well prepared to paint. I also have a tendency to be more successful at evening than for the duration of the working day. There is anything magical about portray in the darkish. The darkness will help me shed track of time and immerse myself into get the job done.
What is the very first detail you do when you walk into your studio (right after turning on the lights)?
I start off my working day by arranging my brushes, oils, and pre-mixing the day’s colours. This pre-mixing approach can acquire about an hour, but it is crucial for me to get into the suitable mentality and feel about the mood and atmosphere I want for my paintings. I normally perform on 2–3 paintings at a time. I group colors into separate containers and label them with descriptive names like “trees/shadow” or “sky” so I can effortlessly go back and forth among paintings.
What are you functioning on proper now? You should send us a number of smartphone shots of a function in progress—or shots of different will work in different states of completion—in a way that you believe will deliver perception into your process.
I’m in the closing phases of getting ready for my forthcoming solo exhibit at Albertz Benda in New York. I’ve focused the past six months to this task, and I’m nearing completion. The month leading up to the work selection is generally chaotic. I’m checking for dust that may possibly have gotten caught in the varnishing system and building absolutely sure the edges are cleanse.
What instrument or art provide do you delight in operating with the most, and why?
I have experimented with various art mediums, but oil portray usually draws me again. I love how it blends softly, and its slow drying time presents me lots of time to do the job on my portray. Oil has come to be my primary medium, and I use the typical blend of linseed oil and Gamsol.
What variety of ambiance do you want when you operate? Is there something you like to hear to/check out/go through/seem at and so on. though in the studio for inspiration or as ambient society?
I really don’t like to function in entire silence. I alternate involving listening to songs and viewing Netflix documentaries, in particular kinds about mother nature and criminal offense. Whilst painting, I don’t constantly focus on what I’m seeing or listening to, so I tend to overlook bits and items. I’ll frequently replay them to capture what I skipped.
How do you know when an artwork you are functioning on is clicking? How do you know when an artwork you are doing the job on is a dud?
I commonly allow it sit for a couple of days. I are inclined to often sense a thrill when the impression in my head begins to take condition as I paint. On the other hand, my emotions can alter drastically after a working day or two. Some functions that at first excite me can reduce their luster, although other folks constantly draw me again in. That’s how I know if a piece definitely has anything specific and I hold painting. It’s like courting: you have to see how you truly feel about an individual once the preliminary spark fades.
Is there just about anything in your studio that a customer may well obtain shocking?
The vivid pink wall in my studio. It was painted by the movie production organization that made use of the space ahead of me, and their organization emblem is still on the wall. I believed getting a colored wall in the studio would be appealing, so I by no means transformed it. A couple of my company have been taken by shock by it.
What is the fanciest item in your studio? The most humble?
It is not an merchandise, but I imagine my personal bathroom is the fanciest attribute in my studio. I come to feel pretty lucky to have uncovered this place with a toilet, for the reason that a lot of artist studios in New York have shared bathrooms. The humblest product in my studio is a little birdhouse. A whilst in the past, I identified a infant bird on the street, seemingly fallen from its nest. I could not find where it came from, so I introduced the fowl to my studio. I also acquired a birdhouse and some chicken foods, and I tried using to get treatment of it. Even so, the fowl seemed to prolonged for its mom, and it would not try to eat or consume. I at some point returned it to in which I located it. At any time because, I have retained the vacant birdhouse on my studio window.
What do you like to do appropriate after that?
It’s typically earlier midnight when I get house. Right after a prolonged working day in my studio, I take pleasure in getting a warm bathtub with some bath salt. It’s aspect of my healing program.
Adhere to Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to remain in advance of the artwork entire world? Subscribe to our e-newsletter to get the breaking information, eye-opening interviews, and incisive vital requires that travel the conversation ahead.