"In The Studio With:..." is a weekly feature that takes us into the private creative spaces of emerging artists to discuss their work and career.
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Hagar Sadan has been working as an artist and arts educator in New York since attending Columbia University in 2015. she currently maintains a studio in Brooklyn and works for the New York City Department of Education.
Her work can be described as the granddaughter of Pop Art. It is informed by the same social forces as Pop Art but does not celebrate consumer culture so much as examine it and question it's motives and impact on individuals, society, and the planet
Anthony Philip Fine Art: What are you trying to say with the work you make?
Hagar Sadan: I try to make a connection between my personal mundane life and certain aspects of our collective culture, particularly what I see as consumer culture that started in the the United States and has become a global culture. Certain aspects of popular American culture, especially consumption of cheap, disposable goods, seems to me as a means of psychological escape for a lot of people. This type of consumption became a distraction and an escape for me too. So I grapple with this in my art, and make art that contains found imagery and cheap disposable goods. The ubiquity of corporate logos in our lives, and the way they have become the most recognizable images globally, is also something that I my art speaks about. If I work with materials that contain logos, I include them in the paintings. Although specific aspects of my identity, such as being a woman and an immigrant, inform my work, I am also a part of a tradition of painting, and I try to assert my own voice while expanding on that tradition. The act of painting is an act of intimacy for me, an act that involves touch, an act of trying to connect with a viewer. I try to show the viewer my way of contending with outside forces that are out of my control within the painting.
APFA: What was a breakthrough moment in your art?
HS: A few years after graduating from college, I was doing an artist residency at the School of Visual Arts in New York. When I came to the residency I was an oil painter, but I was not completely happy with oil painting. I wanted to make art in a way that connected to my everyday life better, and expressed environmental awareness and concern. I looked around my home for materials that I can repurpose, to bring to the residency, and I realized I had a bunch of plastic bags under my kitchen sink. I started tracing those bags onto found plastic sheets. That decision started me on the artistic path that I am on today, as I have been tracing plastic bags in my work ever since. While they have rightfully become a symbol for a of human waste and environmental degradation, in my art they also have accrued other layers of symbolic meaning. I think of them as membranes, and also as symbols of human fragility, human flaws and folly, and of spiritual void. When I press the plastic bags behind the plexiglas, and trace them with pen, the wrinkles of the plastic become an irregular pattern. This irregular pattern is something I have come to think of as a kind of a personal trademark, a visual tool that functions differently in different paintings, and straddles the boundary between abstraction and representation.
APFA:What kind of media do you use? Tell us about why you chose that media.
HS: Ever since that breakthrough with the plastic bags, I have been painting with acrylic on plexiglas. I discovered this media because I looked for an alternative to painting with oil, and I wanted to paint on something transparent. Essentially, both acrylic paint and plexiglas are synthetic, plastic-derived materials. I feel that acrylic paint really comes to life and shows its best quality, its luminescence, on transparent acrylic sheets. The paintings look differently when different light hits them. The effect of light on my paintings is an important aspect of the work, and that is the connection of my work to impressionist painters, who were interested in trying to capture the effect of light in their paintings. The difference from those painters is that in my paintings, the light actually comes through the painting, bounces back from the white wall back through the painting. The transparent surface of the painting enables me to leave some parts of the painting totally empty, more blank than a blank canvas. Metaphorically, I see the surface of the painting as akin to skin, and that goes back to painting being an intimate act of touching. However, the hard, nonporous surface of plastic is not like the organic, breathing surface of skin, so that’s where there is welcomed tension in my paintings.
APFA: Who are some of your influences?
HS: I look at a pop culture, internet culture and my physical environment for inspiration. My artistic influences include 60s pop-artists who incorporated images of consumer culture in their work, especially Warhol, Rosenquist and Rauschenberg. I have also been looking at French impressionist painters a lot, especially Monet, Bonnard and Cezanne. Post-minimalists and feminist artists, especially artists who used non-traditional materials to make work that is painting-derived but extends the boundaries of painting, such as Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois, are also a big influence on me. Finally, I look at a more loosely connected group of painters, some contemporary, whose paintings straddle the boundaries of abstraction and figuration, such as Phillip Guston and Amy Sillman.
APFA: Take us through the process of making a work of art.
HS: I collect leftovers of my consumption, such as plastic bags, receipts and packaging. Then I have an overall concept, a basic idea for a composition in my head that comes from looking at those source materials, and from things that are happening in my life, the environment, news, politics etc. I incorporate images from many sources into my paintings. After having a general compositional idea, I arrange some source material behind the clear plexi. Then I make a drawing loosely based on the source material with a thin black marker. I take away the source material and let the painting process take over from there. I give a lot of consideration to color, as I choose a limited palate of colors for each painting and I stick with those colors. I think about color as I make the painting, and how the colors work together. I like leaving room for chance. This is an exciting part of the painting process, letting the paint, the material, come into its own.
If you would like to find out more about Hagar and her work, please visit her website here: http://www.hagarsadan.com