Sarah Letovsky is a contemporary artist residing in Toronto, who finished her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting at OCAD University in 2014. She was the recipient of the 2014 Mrs. W.O. Forsyth Award for Excellence in Painting. Letovsky’s work has been exhibited at Art Toronto, Only One Gallery, Hashtag Gallery, and featured in FASHION Magazine. Her work has been auctioned at Art With Heart for Casey House Toronto as well as the ArtsEffect Auction as selected by Jamie Angell.
What are some of the elements that you believe are characteristic in defining your style?
It’s hard to say, because the way I see my work may not be the way someone else does. However, I think a consistent element to my work is that it is political; making art is always political in some way or another, but I’m interested in making work about women that is not the typical way that art is usually made about women.
‘GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS’ is your first solo exhibition. How has your art evolved over the years, and how does this exhibition capture the essence of your work and its message?
I think that my work will be evolving over the course of my entire career. Even between paintings, sometimes I feel like I have made a huge leap forward. I think that artists should not be afraid of change and evolution – it pushes you into making brave decisions and means you are constantly engaging in a constant process of discovery. I think this show is definitely a good encapsulation of some of the visual themes I’ve been working with since I graduated from OCAD in 2014.
None of the women you portray look at the viewer with big beaming smiles. Instead they are often mysterious, blasé, suspicious – even bored. What are you expressing through these kinds of depictions of the female portrait? Why do you think it is important to showcase these kinds of unapologetic moments of the everyday and what kind of dialogue are you hoping to open?
To me, there is something so much more engaging and intriguing about a portrait that has a more closed or complex expression. When I walk into a museum, I’m always drawn to the portraits that are more inscrutable rather than plainly expressive. It’s so much more open to interpretation and to a subjective reading of the piece. My faces are sometimes a fluke or happy accident – I love to let the piece itself dictate that. Sometimes just the way the brushstroke falls on the edge of a mouth can have an enormous effect on their expression.
Why is the concept of the woman watching, and then being watched, an important theme within your portraits?
That’s a subject that really interests me and that I think affects a lot of people, particularly women – this notion of being “seen” or being “unseen” and being an object of display, or the historical burden of being an object of display. A portrait is such a great way to explore this because of the intense relationship between the subject/viewer, and I’m interested in playing/disrupting with that relationship.
I love the tropical elements that are making their way into your newer works, like avocados, palm trees and flowers. Can you speak on the use of this imagery?
Thank you! I love pattern and texture and using it in unexpected ways. This tropical or bright imagery is often thought of as idyllic and light hearted – i.e. in the context of vacationwear or resortwear, so I think it’s really interesting to contrasting it with this sense of anxiety, uncertainty, strangeness, and otherness. It creates a wonderful tension.
Who are a few artists that inspire you?
This is such a hard question! I’m inspired by so many people – both artists and otherwise. I love literature and poetry and that has a huge impact on my work. Artists like Matisse, Francis Bacon, and Alice Neel. There’s a lot of contemporary female painters that I love: Janet Werner, Sarah Awad, Mira Dancy, Tatiana Berg, Sarah Faux, Kathe Bradford… so many.
The opening reception for ‘GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS’ will be held on Thursday September 8th, 2016 from 6- 9 pm at Project Gallery (1109 Queen St E). The exhibition will be on display until September 25th, and can be viewed during regular gallery hours (Wed-Sun, 12-5pm).