Sarah Arriagada applies layers of acrylic and oil paint onto carefully sewn small scale coarse canvases to create paintings that refer to intimate places – faces, body parts, and domestic interiors.
Arriagada forms organic, grid-like compositions based on her machine made seams that tie cut and loose jute pieces. In that way, she creates unified, assembled painting surfaces that are later primed and stretched onto wooden bars. By highlighting the curves and bulges of the fabric through thickly applied color gradations and contrasts, she visually reinforces the threaded lines and emphasizes the three-dimensionality of the pulled and spanned canvas.
In opposition to the paintings’ object-like qualities stand the flat geometric shapes such as rectangles, triangles, circles, ovals, and squares that surface and overlap each other like warp and weft in a weaving. Both floating and tightly knit, their interactions bring about associations such as deflated human body mass and plane architectural elements such as windows, curtains and doors. They also refer to the horizontal designs found in quilts and other stitched and patched handwork from the private realm.
Despite of the fragmented nature of these compositions, they deliver an experience of unity and harmony. Arriagada’s ritualized reenactment of separation and the growing of new and surprising constellations reveal both rhythm and syncopated moments – a shifting or displacement of beat as most often found in Jazz music – preventing predictability and inviting active looking.
Arriagada’s paintings have a strong physical presence, and with their scale comparable to that of the human head, we feel vis-a-vis with a counterpart. Their titles allude to people’s names, fortifying our belief that we are facing a person, flesh and all. Our fellows’ rich surface texture suggests the irregularities of our anatomy, such as scars, wrinkles, hair (fallen off a paint brush), pimples and other bodily imperfections.
Such as quilts have been created and used to tell stories (of birth, union, separation, migration, survival, family and tribal traditions and spiritual devotion) and giving guidance to our descendants – often hidden in symbolic and enigmatic imagery – our faces and bodies hold tales from our lives, past and present.
Needless to say, bodies and blankets have warmed and comforted us since the beginnings of humanity. The touch and a holding environment have always been key for our survival as a species. The sensory pleasures revealed by the tactile qualities of Arriagada’s pieces, and the ruptures and collisions manifesting in her sewn paintings show a karmic understanding of the human condition, telling ancestral and contemporary stories that are yet to be deciphered.