Sasha Pierce: Tessellations, Textiles and Illusionistic Space

Triangle Crown detail, 2015, oil on linen, 23 x 18 inches
Triangle Crown detail, 2015, oil on linen, 23 x 18 inches
Watanabe Ito Soma 12 Fold II, 2015, oil on linen, 23 x 18 inches
Watanabe Ito Soma 12 Fold II, 2015, oil on linen, 23 x 18 inches

LM: Recently, I had the pleasure of viewing your paintings at the Richard Heller Gallery booth during the Untitled Miami Art Fair. I am very impressed by the meticulous detail of your work. Can you talk about your process and how you arrived at it?

SP: Thank you. During my Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, I wanted to create a terry cloth texture on a section of a canvas. I wasn’t satisfied with a painted illusionistic texture and so I carefully extruded thin thread-like lines of oil paint out of a little plastic bag to re-create the three-dimensional terry cloth texture that I desired. 

I have continued to experiment with this technique, which has evolved to the work that you saw at Untitled Miami Art Fair. My current work has a multi-colored woven-like surface, and as I lay each thin line of it down it goes from a thicker to a thinner stream of paint and ultimately to a vanishing point. In my paintings you’ll find a paradox of space between the textured surface and the illusionistic space created by a vanishing point.

LM: In a review of your paintings, it’s been written that ‘A connecting thread between the artworks of Sasha Pierce is literally thread… (and) reference textiles, even though they are not textiles in themselves.’ In which ways has fiber arts influenced your work? 

SP: Surprisingly it is not fiber arts but textile itself, which inspires my paintings and silkscreen collages. When I was a young child I remember sitting on the floor and enjoying the sensation of drawing temporary lines and patterns in the carpet. I was seduced by the soft, malleable and tactile qualities of the carpet. Now, as an artist, I am interested in visually representing the sensations of textile with oil painting and collage.

There is also a historical thread that connects me to my ancestors. My great grandmothers were quilters and knitters, and my maternal grandfather’s occupation was fixing and selling sewing machines. For my ancestors working with textiles was not considered an art but a part of daily life.

That being said, just last week I had the opportunity to tour the textile storage facility at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Toronto. I had no idea that looking at historical textiles and fiber arts from around the world would make me so happy. I am drawn to earthy hand-dyed colors and I enjoy the meticulous yet imperfect labor found in hand-woven textiles. This visit to the ROM was deeply inspiring and I look forward to continuing my research into historical textiles and allowing them to influence my work.

Starry Night IV detail, 2015, silkscreen on handmade Kurotani #52 kozo paper archival cotton paper and archival mending tape, 31.25 x 23.5 inches
Starry Night IV detail, 2015, silkscreen on handmade Kurotani #52 kozo paper archival cotton paper and archival mending tape, 31.25 x 23.5 inches
Watanabe Ito Soma 12 Fold, 2013, oil on linen, 23 x 18 inches
Watanabe Ito Soma 12 Fold, 2013, oil on linen, 23 x 18 inches

LM: Your compositions are very dynamic. What sparked your interest in using geometrical forms as a starting off point?

SP: I have an interest in math and I am fascinated by the possibility of representing 3D space on a 2D surface. The simpler shapes in my previous paintings have become more complex over time and my compositions have become more dynamic with the use of tessellations and vanishing points. A few years ago I came upon an amazing mathematical website called Tilings Encyclopedia which was created with support by the University of Bielefeld, Germany. This encyclopedia includes examples of substitution tilings, which are listed in lexicographical order. I love the colors of the diagrams and the names given to the each tiling. Currently I am using a substitution tessellation called Birds and Bees, which will be the name of the painting when it is complete. I often use tessellations as a starting point and then I sort of camouflage the geometry with my own processes.

LM: Ancient geometric art comes to mind because of your use of labor and patterns. Are there any specific time periods that you look to for inspiration?  

There is no one specific time period influencing my work at the moment, however with the historical research that I’m doing now, that could change with my next paintings.

If, however, I were to pick a time period that I am generally interested in I would have to say the 9th century Islamic Golden Age of mathematics. I love the complexity of Islamic geometric patterns and Muqarnas, which is a form of architectural ornamented vaulting.

Watanabe Ito Soma 12 Fold detail, 2013, oil on linen, 23 x 18 inches
Watanabe Ito Soma 12 Fold detail, 2013, oil on linen, 23 x 18 inches
Starry Night IV, 2015, silkscreen on handmade Kurotani #52 kozo paper archival cotton paper and archival mending tape31.25 x 23.5 inches
Starry Night IV, 2015, silkscreen on handmade Kurotani #52 kozo paper archival cotton paper and archival mending tape31.25 x 23.5 inches

LM: I’m looking forward to seeing your paintings again. Any upcoming exhibitions?

SP: Yes, I am very happy to be working closely with Richard Heller Gallery – with the amazing Richard Heller as well as his awesome team: Associate Director Barry Belkin and Registrar Kaye Heller. Richard Heller Gallery is located in the Bergamot Station in Santa Monica and the gallery represents a talented group of artists. I am currently creating new work for a European art fair in June, and I am working toward a solo exhibition at Richard Heller Gallery early 2017.

In addition, I was just awarded an Ontario Arts Council Chalmers Research Fellowship to research the art practices and writings of Anni and Josef Albers. In order to conduct this research I will be travelling to Milan, Italy; Dusseldorf and Bottrop, Germany; Bethany, Connecticut, US; and New York, New York, US. I will also be participating in an upcoming 2016 residency at the Digital Painting Atelier at OCAD University in Toronto. I am excited to see what impact these experiences will have on my work.

 

Interview by Laura Mylott Manning

Photos provided by the artist

Laura Mylott Manning

Laura Mylott Manning

Laura Mylott Manning is a New York based artist and curator. Manning studied at Rhode Island School of Design, 2001 BFA Sculpture, and holds a MFA 2009, Interdisciplinary Arts, from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has also studied at Pont Aven School of Contemporary Art in France. Her work has been exhibited in New York as well as internationally, including ArtNow NY, NY; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, CT; and The Baur au Lac, CH. She has received an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Associated Press, Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal among others have reviewed her work. Recent curatorial projects include Bottles in Bloom, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, NY. Manning contributes to the World Council United Nations journal Centerpoint Now. To learn more please visit: www.lmylottmanning.com

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