Sarah Gillespie ‘s Open Studio exhibition

15thJune, 2018.

Dartington artist-in-residence, Sarah Gillespie caught my attention because her work reminded me of the shimmer / absence that fellow OCA SW student, Liz Nunn is trying to capture in her work.  Whereas Liz is taking her inspiration from the Australian Aboriginal concept of shimmer / absence, Sarah states  “I make paintings, drawings and engravings that aspire to a quality the Japanese call Hosomi. Hosomi describes an emotional delicacy and a determination to slight nothing, to see and understand the beauty in all things. The practice requires less self-expression and something more akin to an emptying of the self, a stepping aside, to make a lens of oneself – open the subtler depths of beauty to which we are so often blind.”  I investigated her method and came up with this website on silverpoint drawing. 


” these visual observations mingle with memory and reflection: winter trees become skeletal presences, pinpricks of light seem to dance like fireflies on mud and water, autumn leaves, shimmering in the breeze, become angelic messengers caught in a tangle of branches.”( Richard Davey essay)


I was also trying to find inspiration for my forthcoming foray into prison gardens and how to capture those.

The highlights of her Open Studios exhibition for me were the silver point drawing of a leafy tree – you can see most of it, but there are traces of it which have to be exposed to the air for the silver to make its presence seen.  Sarah coats a sheet of paper with a special substance – zinc white gouache and a traditional bone ash recipe.  She then traces her outlines with a silver pen and the marks it makes will react with the air to expose the lines.  Sarah has gone over some of the lines with graphite pencils and charcoal to accentuate them.  What impressed me most was the subtlety of her method.

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 14.24.45.png

What I took away with me about the work:

  • Surprisingly, its photo-realism appealed to me.  I could not believe that some of the work was oil on canvass because it had none of the usual solidity of an oil painting.
  • The darkness of the outcome to me is at odds with the ‘subtler depths of beauty to which we are often blind’ – my concept of beauty has more light than darkness.  yet, the details of her paintings make you look deeper into the surface, makes you look for that beauty:

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 14.25.09.png

What I took away from the exhibition about me:

  • I was surprised at how attracted I was to the dark images & thought that I might try that approach to my prison garden images as an antidote to the whiteness of my BoW.
  • I normally stay clear of photo-realistic images but somehow, these made me see them in a new light & I really appreciated them.

The setting:

Dartington opened the Aller Park just for Sarah’s artist-in-residence year.  The site had been closed since the 1970’s.  Sarah was very happy to have been given the studio space for her work and exhibition and actively encourages others to take up the spaces.   The positives of the setting:  there is a lot of natural light & it is making use of a perfectly good site.  A negative: ?


  •  I would love to be in a space for artists but I have a perfectly good space in my house already.
  • I would like to try photographing shimmer and absence in my prison garden images.
  • Sarah told me about the Landworksinitiative on the Dartington estate.  It is an initiative in which prisoners on day release are encouraged to grow their own food and eat at a table with members of the public on certain days of the week.  I have an appointment on Monday with the manager of the scheme to see what goes on there & to see if / how I can get involved.


Next step:

See Chris , manager of Landworks on Monday.

2 thoughts on “Sarah Gillespie ‘s Open Studio exhibition

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s