From Gravity-Driven Paintings to Design Innovations in London: An Inspiring Interview with Artist Sarah Emily Porter

Leyton-based artist Sarah Emily Porter discusses her creative process, inspiration and how art can make a house feel like a home.

From Gravity-Driven Paintings to Design Innovations in London: An Inspiring Interview with Artist Sarah Emily Porter

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Sarah Emily Porter is an abstract painter and sculptor, working from her studio in Leyton, East London. By pouring and manipulating paint on tilting structures, she creates a dialogue between art and science as the paint ebbs and flows in a single linear stroke under the force of gravity. Through this method of painting, she removes the artist from the gesture and emotion of painting, highlighting instead the complexity of colour and the intricacies of her materials.

Alongside her painting practice, she runs the design studio, Porter + Trundle to create playful, sculptural works that bridge the gap between art, craft and design. A key theme within the work is the relationship between colour and form.

Porter has won numerous accolades for her work including the New Ashgate Rising Stars Award 2021, the Richard Seager Annual Arts Award 2019 and the Broomhill National Sculpture Prize 2018.

In addition, she has been commissioned by the Nobu London Portman Square to create artwork for the Penthouse Suite, the London Festival of Architecture to create a City of London Bench outside the Royal Exchange, and she has been recognised for her work in numerous publications including the Financial Times, Wallpaper*, Elle Decoration and Architects’ Journal.

What inspired you to become an artist, what influenced your creative journey?

I’ve always been creative and imagined being an artist from a young age, but the pressure for financial stability created by increased student loans meant I took a more traditional route through education studying architectural history before becoming an artist in my late twenties. I think art had always felt like an easy option for me so the thought of being challenged by university excited me. I’m glad it ended up this way, as it’s given me a whole host of experiences to draw from to feed my practice, as well as the time to really understand what I want from being an artist. 

Can you tell us about your artistic style and the techniques you employ in your work?

I'm an abstract painter interested in the process of making, materials and the relationship of colour. In order to allow my materials to have a voice in the work, I pour and manipulate paint on tilting wooden structures to let the force of gravity decide the final outcome of my paintings. More recently I have been exploring these ideas through sculpture and installation. 

How do you find inspiration in the bustling city of London? Are there specific places or events that fuel your creativity?

A lot of my work is inspired by architectural geometry and mathematics so the bustling city of London is the perfect place to fuel my creativity. I particularly like sketching brutalist buildings like the Barbican as they are full of beautiful shapes and forms. However, my colours are usually inspired by nature and my everyday surroundings so I often spend time in Walthamstow Wetlands, Epping Forest and the Olympic Park, which are only a stone's throw away from my studio in Leyton. 

Could you share any memorable exhibitions or collaborations you've participated in, in London?

One of my favourite exhibitions in London was in Walthamstow Village, which brought together a whole community of artists to display their works in the windows of the shops for a Summer Exhibition. It was really lovely to see the breadth of artists in the area. 

What role do you think art plays in the cultural landscape of London, and how do you contribute to that as an artist?

Art and design are everywhere you look in the city - you can’t escape it! I think it’s what makes London a vibrant and exciting city to live and work in. I hope my work helps people find beauty and joy in their everyday lives, but more broadly, I hope it challenges people to be open-minded and think creatively. 

Are there any particular themes or messages you aim to convey through your art? How do you hope your work resonates with viewers?

My work is about the process of making, enjoying the material properties and history connected with painting and the relationship of colour. The work is often inspired by places with personal significance to me, like the cornish coast or the city of London, but whilst I know the inspiration behind my work, I don’t expect the viewer to know all the nuances, nor do I think it’s necessarily important to enjoy the work, especially with abstract painting like mine. I guess I hope people emotionally connect in some way, whether that’s because they enjoy the colours, the process or they find a deeper personal connection in the work. 

Decorating with art can really elevate an interior. How can art make a house a home?

I think blank walls can make a house feel unloved and a little lonely. The addition of colour or a well-chosen artwork that tells a story can really add to the personality of a home, making it feel warm and welcoming, or simply act as a friendly opener for conversation. 

Could you discuss any ongoing projects you're currently working on or any upcoming exhibitions or shows we should look out for?

I currently have a Solo show at CourtX in Southsea, Portsmouth until 11 September where you can find a collection of my paintings in the community pavilion. Closer to home, I’ll be showing some new paintings at The Other Art Fair at Truman Brewery in the Autumn and my sculptural design work will be part of a maker's Cafe at Shoreditch Art Club during London Design Week in September.  

Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring artists in London who are looking to establish themselves in the art scene?

Keep experimenting, be curious and proactive, embrace opportunities when they’re thrown your way and be open to collaboration - you never know where it might lead. Most importantly, never stop making work., no matter how hard it may feel.

Estates East Team

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