“I have always worked on people, faces,
I love the translucency & reflection of skin,
confrontational eyes that narrate a story I can't vocalise.
My style is paradoxically chaotic and controlled,
Brazen and aggressive brush strokes form soft curves, precisely cut with a sharp edge.
My controlling personality tries to form some order in a world that is constantly in flux.
I use colours that bear no similarity to skin.
and shameless scale to break our intimacy barriers.”
Sarah Danes Jarrett
1964 born in the UK,
1966 family emigrated to Africa, raised wild in Zimbabwe,
1985 qualified with a Graphic Design diploma,
1986 emigrated to South Africa worked in graphic design,
wins three CLIOS, two London International Advertising Awards.
1998 retired from design when she became a mother
2000 purchased her first blank canvas, oil paints and brushes
2002 first painting consigned to and sold from the Hout Bay Gallery
2006 erotic art Exhibition, group show, the Hout Bay Gallery
2010 editorial feature in Habitat magazine, works purchased for the Bay Hotel collection
2011 works purchased for the Cape Heritage Hotel collection
2014 featured in House and Leisure magazine
2015 featured on the cover of Good Taste magazine
2017 featured in Luxe Magazine
2017 Group exhibition, Modus8 Gallery in Sint Martens Latem, Belgium
2017 Group exhibition, The World Economic Forum (Africa), Imbizo gallery, Durban
2017 Group exhibition, Modus8 Gallery in Sint Martens Latem, Belgium
2017 Summer Exhibition, The Boutique Gallery, Franschhoek
2018 Group exhibition, The Boutique Gallery in Sint Martens Latem, Belgium
2019 commissioned to Vienna to paint portraits commissioned by a family
Luxe Magazine interview with Sarah by Barbie Meyer, March 2017
A self confessed neat freak, Sarah Danes Jarrett is a delight to chat to for her natural simplicity and down-right honesty. She admits that she doesn’t have extreme views about things and doesn’t feel the need to put avid political or fundamental messages across in her work. She simply adores the process and journey of a painting.
Sarah is an artist who would put herself in the “introvert” category. Softly spoken with words carefully measured, Sarah takes a long breath in before answering any of my questions - and one is instantly aware that although quiet she is certainly no pushover. After chatting to her I get the feeling that this is someone who if you ask the age old question, “does my bum look fat in these jeans?” She would quietly ask you to turn around, take a good look and then tell you without hesitation the unadulterated truth… which would probably sting in my case. I like her.
Raised in Zimbabwe, Sarah went on to study commercial art at the Harare Technikon, now she is considered one of this countries finest naturalist artists. Her exquisite, bright, blocky, large scale portraits demand a response. Her faces often stare right back at you as the viewer - they contain an alluring quality which makes you want to look back and see if she is still looking at you. And she always is.
When I ask her the plebeian question, “Yes, you can paint but can you draw?” (Which is another thing I’m always secretly thinking when looking at abstract works - those are delightful blobs and things but I wonder if this artist can actually draw’…don’t you?) Sarah breathes in as she thinks back fondly and tells me of Martin Van de Spuy, ‘A wonderful lecturer and fine artist,’ who really inspired her. He encouraged his students to fall in love with figure drawing which she just adored…and probably seeded her eventual love for figurative and portrait work. So yes, she can draw!
Sarah arrived in South Africa in 1988 (following a boyfriend, she laughs) and now resides in Wynberg in the beautiful Cape with her two teenage children. She opts for a simple life out of the limelight, where small talk can be kept to a minimum. “this surely must be tricky?” I interject, “when your work is in high demand and exhibitions and events call for their fair share of your public self?” She admits that she finds these events a little stiff but once she’s out of her ‘painting clothes’ and finally gets to an exhibition, she enjoys the chatting and sharing of ideas despite her inertia.
What is important for you to get right in your work? Oh that’s easy - the white. I am a bit of a controlling person and to me the flat white background ‘corrects’ the final artwork. White just neatens up the chaos and draws the piece together to make it cohesive to me. I use white on the face and on the background, the edges have to be precise - my neatness streak demands it!
Tell us about how you go about a painting - what inspires you and how do you transfer your idea to the canvas? Firstly I’ve found that once I have an idea I have to keep it to myself because if I discuss it first - it’s almost like I don’t need to do it anymore - it’s been verbalised so what’s the point? I spend a lot of time sourcing and taking pictures of someone where there is something I can relate to: a look or an attitude. I need to see a little of myself in the piece so I guess they’re a bit autobiographical. Then I sketch the face onto the white canvas with a Khoki pen. Once this is done, I’m ready to get stuck in with my brushes which I have in a wonderful array of sizes. I have the most gorgeous 40 cm wide Italian brush… Barbie do you know how much paint that sucks up?! My paintings have been described as chaotic but actually every mark is considered…the colour, the length of the stroke and the direction of every brushstroke - none of it is haphazard at all. I layer the paint until it’s right - and then I reach for my tube of white.
How do you keep the skin so life-like and translucent using the extreme colours that you do? Well I’m glad that they come across as translucent and life-like because I'm making my colours brighter and brighter and I’m having a ball with fluorescent colours at the moment. But seriously, to me, if you’re painting real people with real translucent skin - one can never really be too radical or go too far because the viewer’s eye always makes that leap, our eyes want to find the face within the brushwork and the extensive layering of colours, no matter what palette I use.
Do you ever fail - as in disliking a piece and painting over it ? I have painted over some early works, but each one takes at least a week and I deliberate over every part, so I rarely need to paint over it again.
Do you do commissions? Yes I do, but of adults only. I’m often asked to do children’s portraits but this is something I choose not to do. Children are too soft and rounded and ‘un-lived' in.
How do you know when a painting is finished ? I just know instinctively - it feels and looks finished.
Did you always know that you would be an artist? They say prostitution is the oldest profession in the world… don’t believe it, think of cave art. I reckon art has always been instinctively in all of us - and I have just had the wonderful opportunity to nurture this in my life. It is now what I do commercially and it works. I don’t try to over-analyse or justify what I do - I am just grateful that people like my work enough for them to buy and live with it in their space. It allows me to continue doing what is instinctive to me.
What would you do if you weren’t an artist? (Sarah Doesn’t skip a beat on this one) Definitely a chef!
A dish you would cook for your friends? Indian curries with rich chocolate brownies for dessert. (Note to self : Pop in to Sarah’s the next time I’m in Cape Town… with a tube of white paint… around supper time).