This post comes from our West Coast contributor, Tina!
Good Morning, it’s a beautiful day in Venice, California. Come walk with us, through the cottage and onto the garden pathway, past the wind chimes and dragonflies. Where the beach and the lush greens intermix and the sounds of the birds chirping bring you calm. There is a place here, a wonderful place, where a beautiful maker creates in her 1982 Viking camper. Say ‘hello’ to Sara Marlowe Hall, California born with a dual London base. Come sit in this oasis of creativity with us and learn all about her art, background and travels.
Tell us about your travels growing up, how has living among different cultures and environments helped to shape you?
Living between two cities — London and Los Angeles — was always challenging. I was lucky at a young age to be able to see a lot of the world traveling with my family, often being taken to art openings and museums, and experiencing a wide range of cultures. This helped me prepare for when I went to Camberwell College of Arts London where I studied fine art drawing. But what really inspired me as an artist was when I visited Berlin and got a taste for the unique art scene that Germany had to offer. I then decided to study at The Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig (Germany) which — as an independent move — was an adventure unlike any I had experienced before. The industrial city, full of misfit artists and endless abandoned spaces, allowed me to create without limits, and this shaped me.
Your Grandmother seems to be one of your strongest inspirations. Tell us more about her and her influences on you and your artwork.
To her, living was art. Every morning she would wake up and paint. She embraced all forms of art and was inspired by everything around her, from nature to urban life. She encouraged me to look closely at everything and enjoy all things from an aesthetic viewpoint. Her strong work ethic and natural creative energy has been a definite influence. To create and paint was vital to her, and I feel the same way.
Tell us about your practice and process…
When I was younger I would look at Robert Rauschenberg’s work and I would see these big screen prints, mark-making, and old furniture combined on the canvas; there was an idea in the ’50s and ’60s in abstract art where you could collect things and put it all together. Then I had to find my own path in it and that was combining drawing and painting and collage into one.
Mainly, it is the idea that I am intrigued by nostalgia and that there is lost imagery that gets repurposed.
When I am drawing or painting it’s fragmented so its about scrapping, blurring and drawing in-between the lines that are lost. It is about finding images that have been forgotten about and reappropriating them. Its not lost and found, it’s the idea that something has been forgotten about and you are able to restructure it in a different way with a different light. Because otherwise, this imagery and objects become forgotten and lost. They are quite intriguing and they are all special and unique and I think that’s why I am drawn to them. My work consists of everything from images of swimmers from the ’20s, to crazy landscapes in palm springs from the ’60s, to old bingo cards from the ’40s… collaging and bringing them all together and creating interesting compositions with them.
What has been your favorite piece to create?
Swimmers was such a joy to make. The color palette is so bright and colorful it really became such an important piece for me in L.A. It is such a big contrast to what I was doing in London, because the weather here allows me to create outdoors. It is so much brighter, more colorful and vibrant in California in comparison to England and Germany.
After 10 years of living outside of California, what is it that is luring you back in and making you want to stay?
California has a great community of artists who have been really supportive. There is currently an amazing art scene here and my work has been received very positively. London was right for me while I was there, but I have always felt it is important to follow my instincts — and I have felt instinctively drawn back to California.
Tell us about your live/work space, how is it living in the Viking?
I love it! I have lived in many different small spaces, so when moving into the Viking I adapted easily. The Viking is a homey, colorful space. I’ve made use of vintage saris and fabrics, hanging marigolds, and a washing line above my stove to hang my prints. There is also enough space to have a rail of my vintage clothes, and a collection of my art books and materials to work from.
I have everything I need to create my work here. I am able to make my small artworks and collages inside the Viking and am lucky to be able to paint and work on larger pieces outside in the California sunshine!
If you were to take The Viking on the road, where would you travel to?
New Orleans, as it’s unlike any other city in the states. There is an incredible feeling as you walk around, and there is so much there that inspires me — the people, the energy and the culture are all amazing.
What are your favorite galleries or museums in LA?
The Hammer Museum and MOCA. Also for up-and-coming artists, Merchant Modern’s monthly art exhibits.
What is your favorite piece of art?
I honestly can’t say I have one favorite piece of art, I love so many different artists for different reasons. Mark Rothko’s beautiful layering of color, to Kurt Schwitters’ originality of collage, Ray Johnson’s exchange of correspondence art, and the unique appropriation of John Stezaker’s found imagery have all inspired me in different ways.
Tell us more about growing up around vintage and how it has impacted you…
I love to discover unique things that have been forgotten. I have been a collector of vintage clothes from a young age. From there I developed an interest in old slides, photographs and magazines whose imagery has been forgotten and disposed of. I love to reappropriate these images into my art to give them new life as well as new meaning. Wherever I am in the world, I collect vintage pieces which I incorporate into my art. The works therefore each capture a distinctive connection to, and feel for, the place in which they are created.
For example, my current series ‘California Dreaming’, features images from vintage LIFE magazines, desert hot springs prints from the ’60s, and diving manuals from the ’30s.
What is your favorite vintage find?
There have been so many! But recently I have been collecting old bingo cards from the ’40s up to the ’70s, which I have been including in my current work.
What is your favorite type of music or track to listen to while you are working?
Recently I have been playing local L.A. bands such as Small Wigs and The Squirmers. My all-time favorite album to play whilst making art is Brian Eno Here Come the Warm Jets.