Art historian and critic Lori Waxman on the panel paintings

“Under the terms of the pandemic, many of our lives have gotten smaller: socially, physically, architecturally, geographically. But small can also be good. Think of jewels, short stories, bonsai, kittens, Indian miniatures. Forced to work from her living room in Columbia, MO, since the spring, Sarah Arriagada has painted a dozen-and-a-half 10 x 8-inch oil panels that alternately embrace micro looking and micro living. It isn’t the same thing. Where “Nike” bursts shards of turquoise, taupe and mauve from a central point, like a prism seen up close, “Femme Fenêtre” drapes sun-bleached curtains around a pale blue sky. Hands, clouds, curtains, diamond patterns, and vases recur, presumably because they do in Arriagada’s home. Paint is applied smooth and scumbled, in a few simple strokes or a complexity of layered ones, maybe with a surprise streak of lime or aqua. Reduced living can be expanded via intense looking.”


About the panel paintings

Sarah Arriagada’s panel paintings explore the mental and physical space where closeness and intimacy touch on questions of boundaries and self-preservation. She applies and partially subtracts layers of oil paint onto small scale wood panels, bringing together softened, abstract and figurative elements into richly textured, kinetic compositions. Her bold brushwork and serene color compositions allude to intimate scenes of the domestic realm, depicting curtained windows, rounded vessels and the female body living in the shallow room of the paintings’ physical edges and corners.


About the canvas paintings

Sarah Arriagada’s works exude a light, playful quality and a joyful sense of the power that painting has to hold conflicting impulses in a momentary state of balance. Drawing on her interest in the fetishization of domestic interiors, Arriagada combines cheap textiles with both process and gestural painting techniques to produce works that explore the boundaries between fine art and decoration, ‘taste’ and kitsch, the precious and the banal.

Taking the everyday as her starting point Arriagada paints directly onto unprimed canvas or flimsy fabrics such as gingham, allowing elements of chance to shape the continual reworking of each canvas until she arrives at a point of visual clarity. In an almost ritualised process, she repeatedly applies and scrapes back layers of oil and acrylic to establish a grid or patterned ground against which organic shapes flourish in naïve, expressive strokes.

Arriagada’s actions seem both tentative and bold, awkward and assured as she reverses a canvas and reworks it in chalks and pastels, stencils through lace or blocks out and then exposes the tacky floral print onto which thick colour fields have been applied. The resulting paintings with their fluid, dynamic surfaces invite active looking and open up intimate and elusive spaces, rich in colour, texture and nostalgic association.