Kasmin Gallery opens the first New York solo exhibition of work by Sara Anstis

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Kasmin Gallery opens the first New York solo exhibition of work by Sara Anstis
Sara Anstis, The Visit, 2022. Soft pastel on paper, 60 1/4 x 60 1/4 inches, 153 x 153 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Kasmin.

NEW YORK, NY.- Kasmin is presenting Procession, the first New York solo exhibition of work by London-based artist Sara Anstis. Anstis’s evocative paintings and soft pastels on paper mine art history to render a darkly humorous universe defined by its rich layers of meaning and symbolism, its indeterminate, primarily nocturnal landscapes, and a population of deftly lit figures that seem to hark from the realms of folklore, dream, and mythology.

Comprised as a series of tableaux depicting scenes from a funeral procession, the exhibition presents figures on a ritualistic or ceremonial journey, weighed down by, Anstis writes, “passengers, free-loaders, dogs, memories of people no longer alive, memories of past selves at different ages, exhaustion, the thought of the long journey ahead or an anticlimactic arrival at their destination.” In Knot (2022), a figure appears to mourn as she ties the ankles of another to a pyre, and in The Visit, a portrait of a face tied to a tree serves as a memorial. Loaded with narrative possibilities, Anstis’s work exudes both a pictorial and psychological complexity.

The figures presented in Anstis’s landscapes are resolutely assertive of their autonomy even as they exist peripatetically and close to the margins of survival. As they hunt, swim, play, rest, and sleep, their interdependence with nature implies an order beyond comparisons with the European bourgeoisie concept of “civilization”. Far from an appeal to heteronormative voyeurism, their nakedness, situated in the fecundity of the landscape, is paradoxically highly sexed yet unsexual.

Anstis’s works are steeped in literary history and the founding oral traditions of fables and folklore, and yet they reimagine the typically masculine narrative arcs of climax and denouement that are foundational to the canonized “hero’s journey”. Instead, the works foreground the cyclicality of nature, drawing on the role of ecology by using the forest as a site of transformation.

In recent years, Anstis has moved fluently from working primarily with pastel on paper to realizing large-scale oil on canvas. The deftness of touch necessitated by pastel and the soft surface quality generated by the unmediated connection with the artist’s skin is here translated into paint while retaining the sense of immediacy that is so integral to the artist’s surfaces. Anstis further toys with the senses by depicting tender moments between her figures alongside animals with fur that bristles with tactility, linking the intimacy of the subject with that of the medium itself.

Sara Anstis (b. 1991) is a Stockholm-born and Salt Spring Island raised artist. She received a BFA in Studio Art and Sociology at Concordia University (Montreal, CA) in 2013 and an MFA in Fine Art from Valand Academy (Gothenburg, SE) in 2016. In 2018, she completed the Drawing Year Postgraduate Programme at the Royal Drawing School (London, UK). Anstis has had solo shows at Various Small Fires, Seoul; Bradley Ertaskiran, Montreal; and Fabian Lang, Zurich. Recent group exhibitions include those held at Kunsternerforbundet, Oslo; Kasmin Gallery, New York; Galerie Derouillon, Paris; Lyles & King, New York; and Palazzo Monti, Brescia. She has received grants from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation, Jerwood Arts Bursary, and the Anna-Lisa Thomson Foundation amongst others.

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