Sarah Nutley

Exhibition of Recent


Tony and Sarah’s new exhibition has been cancelled due to the virus.

The show will be rescheduled for a date to be decided next year.

An Introduction to Sarah Nutley’s paintings.

The appeal of these pictures lies in their size (many are 10”x8”, or smaller), and the quiet intensity with which a scale of mark is balanced against the salient features of a scene. They are ‘cabinet paintings’, each with the appeal of an Indian or Middle Eastern miniature. Poised, dignified, and self-contained, they might be anonymous works, painted into the walls of a Mughal palace, mementoes of a period of peaceful expansion and discovery, for there is no evidence of battles being fought, or wars being won. They are fine pieces of work, made with a rare attentiveness to appearance, though no single way of describing unifies the collection, and it is difficult to pin-point a theme. If a journey through life can be recorded in terms of its resting places, each moment of stillness and contemplation might find its own decorated niche, and each beautifully coloured recess might easily be the space of one of these works.

Unlike much contemporary painting, these pictures are not seen by their maker as ‘conquests’. The high level of engagement with each subject does not imply ownership or possession of the world it occupies: there is none of that hysteria of style or antecedent: the attachment ultimately is cool. There are near and distant views, objects and places seen big and small, and differing levels of light. Most is as clear as the day, some recalled as if from a dream.

These small pictures look marvellous together. Take a moment to discover the formal considerations they share: the size of the board or canvas; the preference given to the horizontal composition, the ‘classical’ spread of the image from one side of the picture to the other; the caution with the drama of perspective. And perhaps most noticeably, the beauty of the colour.

How does this artist select her subject matter? She records with paint on board or canvas, not everything she encounters, but things which are particularly suited to her chosen method of description. In this way the world is seen in terms of her art, rather than the other way around.

More than once I have watched Sarah Nutley at her easel in front of her subject. The level of concentration she brings to the activity is intense. She does not copy from the subject but invents around it, in a way which astonishes and intrigues. Few of the pictures include people, yet human presence is keenly felt: the delicacy of the hand, and something of the fragility of the temperament. There is ample evidence of a very special ability with colour.

Tony Rothon

December 2016