Life in full colour

Design / Life

Artist and designer Sarah Thornton-Smith discusses her delicate and ephemeral paper art and the challenge of being an artist in the social media age.





What do you love about being a creative in WA?

As an emerging artist, it has been challenging to navigate the competitive art market. Not to mention the changing business scape of the art world. Artists are now having to ‘market’ their art through various channels, requiring them to understand social media, marketing speak and conduct the business of art themselves. Gone are the days when all artists needed to do were to align themselves with galleries or institutions. Increasingly artists need to be creative in all facets of life and understand their own ‘brand’. Once again, being away from the bustle of progressive cities, we are allowed the currency of time to digest our expression and terms of truths. Given the vastness of our landscapes here in WA, and under such quality of light, it would be remiss to miss the opportunities of creative inspiration provided here. One can only thrive here.

How did you come to be an artist?

I tried very hard on the piano but was told my creative endeavours were best aligned in another medium! Ever since then, I have memories of being introduced to art and was opened to various doors of art institutions over the years – in Singapore and then Perth. It was following my first year in the School of Design at Curtin University, under the tutelage of Dr Paul Green-Armytage, that I had my heart set on a creative pursuit with colour in focus. And it is colour that holds my truth.

What is your artistic ethos?

I consider myself an ‘artist.designer’, who works primarily with colour. It is the main focus of visual exploration and play in my art practice. The myriad of attributes of colour are the primary bases of investigations that inform the structure of my constructions and compositions. Delicate and ephemeral, my paper art pieces echo and highlight the intimacy of the process and the temporary nature of our feelings, through which our experiences and memories are created. Connections are sometimes made and this is a gift.

Using ‘colourwaves’ in the gradation manipulation of gouache (my primary paint medium), I am able to explore ideas like kinetic and optical visual play that lend themselves to further experimentations, which may translate on an abstract level.

The colour palettes used are derived directly from my photographic documentation, written notations and watercolour field studies. The subtle connections between colour, form, structure, light and shadows particularly intrigues me. Underlying all these investigations, my interwoven background of Malay Chinese, Eastern and Western cultures contribute unwittingly to an enquiry of connections.

What are the highlights of your career? 

Igniting my career as an artist.designer with a solo exhibition, Left To My Own Devices, in 2016. Held at the Mundaring Arts Centre, its success provided me with an opportunity for my first large-scale public art installation, Timber Striations, for the Centre’s façade rejuvenation program. It was completed in April 2017.

What’s next for you?

I am currently in the middle of an Artist Residency at Midland Junction Arts Centre for the month of November, working in a spacious studio while exploring and investigating the idea of larger-scaled works. In the meantime I am working towards a body of work for a possible future exhibition.

How can people find your work?

My work is easily found through my website

My Instagram handle ‘SazTS’ records my work in progress and shows my photographic documentation and sources of inspiration.

My facebook page @sarahtsartistdesigner keeps everyone up to date with my daily musings, and captures my creative journey.