Artist in residence: Sara Dare

Artist in residence: Sara Dare

From her studio in Worthing, Sara Dare creates works that play with colour and form to explore the themes of beauty, tension and confrontation

I meet Sara Dare in her converted garage studio in Worthing. It’s what you’d imagine an artist’s space to look like. Canvases are balanced against one another on the whitewashed walls; buckets line the floor and plastic, paint filled containers are piled high like miniature skyscrapers. It’s a highly personal space in which I feel an intruder, with an ordered chaos that likely only makes sense to her. But it also has a practicality that reflects the person who created it – there’s nothing present that doesn’t need to be and it’s very much a functioning workspace.

Far from your typical ‘artist type’, Sara too is practical in the way she describes herself and her work. “There’s no romantic story, no moment in my life where I woke up and decided I wanted to be an artist and that was my destiny or epiphany moment,” she tells me. But art has clearly always been a big part of her, and has only intensified in the last couple of years. “Painting and drawing became a place of respite for me and that really found its place recently. Especially in lockdown where my studio became a sort of sanctuary and place of respite. It became a place to be on my own and be busy and occupy my mind.”

Dare’s work is deceptive. On the face of it it’s simple, with bold, sweeping shapes that fill the canvas, and striking colour combinations that are strangely familiar. But with a multi-layered approach and subtle imperfections that hint at the creative process, the viewer might quickly find themselves questioning what exactly it is they’re looking at. “I started making drawings and paintings about the body,” Sara tells me. “I really enjoyed life drawing when I was at college. The paintings then moved on to become close ups of bodies and body parts. That evolved into more of a bodily presence or a weight and trying to achieve a more abstract look. The more abstract the paintings became I started to enjoy the ambiguity of the form and how forms can be funny or confrontational or reassuring or familiar.”

“There’s no romantic story, no moment in my life where I woke up and decided I wanted to be an artist”

Sara Dare

And what about those colours? Sara’s most often inspired by overlooked, everyday objects. “I’m really into street signs at the moment”. But there isn’t much she doesn’t absorb into her practice, from kid’s toys, to friend’s jumpers and, during lockdown, food. It’s these combinations we subconsciously consume every day that gives her work that signature familiarity. “Hopefully somebody might feel comfortable with a painting when they first look at it because the colours are subliminally familiar or funny. They pull in the viewer in a playful way and then hopefully they start to question once they’ve been pulled in what they’re looking at. Especially if it’s a large piece and it could be considered imposing or even confrontational. Without being balanced out by a playful colour palette, some of the shapes I use would be far more confrontational to view.”

When it comes to the medium, Dare is experimental and non-conforming. Her work, while meticulously created, often features bleeding oils and heavy, gestural marks that sometimes create a feeling of unease and discomfort. Which is of course intentional. “I tend to use acrylic or oils, sometimes both on the same piece because I like how the paints don’t agree with each other. I like to play with that idea. Whether it’s colours or mediums that don’t quite work together, it gives a backdrop of something being slightly flawed in that you can see the brush strokes and almost imagine how it happened.” Ultimately her work is about striking the right tone and walking the line between perfection and something that still feels real. “There’s a play with balance. I want something to be beautiful but not too beautiful, funny but not silly, imposing enough that it catches attention but not off putting.”

“A sense of home or a safe space is being around the right people where you can feel completely yourself”

Sara Dare

But back to that studio. It might seem as though it’s the perfect space for Sara’s practice, but she’s only got to this point through experimentation. Having lived in Worthing for nine years and in Brighton before that, she’s tried everything from airy barns to shared spaces which harked back to university. It’s in trying out these different environments that she discovered what she didn’t want, and has seemed to strike the perfect balance between size and comfort. “Having a space that’s just authentically mine, the equivalent of a teenager’s bedroom I suppose, where you don’t have to make it look a certain way for anybody and it's a functioning ‘just for you’ space, it's more than just what it needs to be.”

Does it invoke a sense of home then, a place that offers comfort and warmth as much as it does inspiration for work? “For me, a sense of home or a safe space is being around the right people where you can feel completely yourself. Sometimes it’s even being on your own. It’s important that my work shows a sense of being flawed, and that it’s authentic. So I suppose the environments where I feel I can be authentic and be myself is what gives me a sense of home, and it doesn’t really matter where that is.”

Explore more of Sara’s work at

Charlie is a freelance writer and editor who covers everything from architecture and style to motoring and profile pieces. He’s produced work for the likes of The Times, The Independent, GQ and Robb Report

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