Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Sarah Misselbrook and I am originally from the UK, but I haven’t lived there for over 15 years. I have lived in Cyprus and now I live in the mountains of Catalunya.
Tell us a bit about your practice.
My practice is just that, a practice… with a lot of failures. These failures become part of the work. The work is multi-disciplined, I draw, I sculpt, I make installations and recorded audio/visual performances.
How do you do it?
I work with handmade charcoal, the fire is central to my practice. I draw things that I find that are no longer living and draw them with the charcoal. A lifeless material representing a lifeless form, both coming together to create something vital. Sculptures and installations are made using found objects, dead wood, bones, rock, plaster and casts from my body. White plaster casts from my body are like echoes of another me or an us, in an attempt to reflect a shared bodily experience and its relationship with fellow creatures and forms. I record the unnoticed, the grubs in the soil, the systems that we rely on, the movement of the clouds and the river, the tree shedding its leaves, the cutting into the fruit harvest, internal structures and processes which then give me imagery to work with. I collect skulls, vertebrae, jaw bones and allow the sun to bleach them clean in order to peel back layers of fur, hide, feathers. I take impressions using plaster of surfaces of leaves, bark and skin. I create multiples and with these forms and their breakages I arrange them into sites which then swallow them back into the soil.
When did you start?
I don’t have a lot of photos of me as a child, but one which goes towards explaining this fascination is of a five year old making mud pies, touching the soil, moulding the earth, creating something out of what is already there, playing, being playful, spending time to feel what is all around me in an attempt to make sense of it all.
Who or what inspires your practice?
The seasons, the changes in structures and soil here in the dry climate of Catalunya, the flash floods, the scorching sun, my body’s ability to navigate this.
Artists that inspire my practice include Helen Chadwick, Ana Mendieta and Kiki Smith. Their use of material and connections between body and place.
What are you exhibiting in Distance 2021?
For Distance 2021 for the Lacuna Festivals, I am exhibiting a recorded performance entitled ‘Outside, Inside the Forest’ which was created in 2019 in response to a call from Chapel arts Studios on the theme of ‘Inside, Outside’. It feels more pertinent now, post Brexit, during the pandemic and focusses on connection from an isolated place and the rural imagination. Also shown is a series of photographic documentation entitled ‘Dust to Dust’ and ‘Inside the Forest’, the former created by burning drawings of cracks and crevices and then using the resulting ash to make paint and then applying this to my face. The latter a series created in the burnt forest of Maials here in Catalunya after a devastating forest fire, using plaster cast fig leaves as a clinical offering to place, as well as bodily performances within the landscape.
Where can people find out more about your work?
The work can be found on my website, sarahmisselbrook.com. I also created an artist book in 2020, entitled ‘Upon Reflection’ which presents 20 years of the practice and includes photography, written word, video stills and drawings.