Sara Willett graduated from Camberwell College of Art, London, with a first class BA (Hons) in Painting in 2002, and later gained a Masters in Fine Art there, graduating in 2011. She has been awarded several fully supported residencies: at Da Wang Culture Highland in China in 2013 and 2015, and a further residency with Being 3 Gallery in Beijing in 2016, which culminated in a solo exhibition, China Web, at the gallery in the same year. In 2017 a selection of Sara’s work from her last residency in China was shortlisted for the Sunny International Art Prize.
Sara’s most recent body of work is a series of ink drawings she calls ‘Blue World’. Made on calligraphy paper that she brought back from one of her China residencies, they were initially inspired by the topology of the Fujian rice terraces viewed from above (during a trip high in the mountains).
During lockdown they evolved to represent for Sara an internal and fragmented dreamscape. Although they bring to mind micro-organisms or cells, the idea of looking down on the world from high above also comes into play, recalling the early photos of earth from space, when we were first made aware of the wonder of this planet. The mystery and fragility of the world has been so obviously on our minds recently that these works seem particularly relevant, not least thanks to the delicacy of the medium of paper. They were also soothing and calming drawings to make in a time of turmoil.
In other work, Sara creates detailed, multi-layered, fragmented surfaces through which she aims to investigate perception and illusion. The triangular or circular forms that swarm across her paintings, which she either gouges out of the layers or applies thickly to the surface, evolve gradually over time. The process consists of both systematic repetition and reflective experience. The results – which act as a record of the temporal activity, tracing its rhythms and movements – are never entirely predictable or envisaged.
Sara explores the pictorial surface and space as a platform for metamorphosis, transformation and evolution. Her paintings often have a playful element, hovering between abstract and representational. The imagery is sourced from a diverse variety of influences including fabrics, mosaics, Chinese landscape painting, Flemish primitive painting, micro/macro biology, sci-fi and pseudo-science, as well as referencing traditional domestic and quotidian crafts. Sara is also interested in the potential of the decorative itself to act as a disruptive or unsettling force.
Sara exhibits regularly in the UK, Europe and Japan, including in the solo show In the Space of Elsewhere in the Project Space at Lewisham Arthouse, London, in April 2018 and in Reconstructing the Reality in the D10 Art Space in Geneva in the same month, an exhibition that toured to Zurich later that year. Sara has been commissioned to create work on many occasions, including for Deptford X, London’s longest running contemporary art festival. Her work is held in collections in the UK, USA, Australia, Japan and Europe.