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Beyond Logic: Sara Riel’s ‘Automatic’ Brings Emotion Into Motion

Beyond Logic: Sara Riel’s ‘Automatic’ Brings Emotion Into Motion

Photos by
Lilja Birgisdóttir

Published October 20, 2018

Sara Riel sits casually on a blue leather couch in her ‘almost New York Loft’ with her excited dog on her lap. An espresso in one hand and a laptop in the other, she talks through a slideshow of her current work. Her studio, brightened by big industrial windows and an inspiring feeling of freedom, seems to invite me to look around and let my mind wander.

“I was taking my brain into another sphere.”

Sara gets up and walks towards one of her works in progress—a painting hanging high on the wall, on a similarly large scale to her expressive, colourful murals that dot the city. She explains how, after a physical breakdown and time spent in a rehabilitation facility, she found the inspiration for her new series.

“I was taking my brain into another sphere,” she says. “Walking in the industrial area close my workshop, going to the swimming pool and listening to music and podcasts and books by John Cage. It created a bridge to my new pieces.”

State of being

Sara sees her current working process—after which ‘Automatic’ is named—as an exercise in meditation; in going with the flow. “The only thing I don’t want myself to do is to edit and become self-critical,” she says. “Hesitation makes the hand become stiffer. Everything becomes more controlled.”

The resulting exhibition is about showing and allowing this instinctive, emotional process, without tight control or overthinking. “Rather than doing it very logically, like in previous work, I wanted it work more on an emotional scale,” Sara explains. “I don’t get intimidated by a blank piece of paper anymore. Art is a co-human state of dropping out that creates a bridge into the state of being. There are no mistakes on this journey, but only going forward and seeing where it goes.”

Depth and creation

Sara’s new works are abstract, but blurred forms sometimes appear; movements are traceable, and the moment of creation is palpable. “When looking at the paintings from afar, it’s possible to see shapes and colours,” says Sara. “Considering the paintings in more detail, another level of understanding opens up.”

This approach was partially inspired by one of Sara’s previous exhibits called ‘Graphic Score,’ in which she “Followed the music without listening to words, but using the beat, the melody, and the sounds and rhythm to create a bridge into this visual world of art.”

Accurate and perfect

Though this living process might seem completely spontaneous and improvised, Sara maintains that there’s a careful precision involved. “My work, to me, is practiced,” she says. “It’s like a Samurai’s sword. The strokes in the paintings need to be accurate and perfect, without criticism.” Confidence, for Sara, goes hand in hand with reining in self-criticism.

“My work, to me, is practiced. It’s like a Samurai’s sword.”

This instinctive method is Sara embarking on a bold, spontaneous artistic journey with no clear destination. “It’s about coming to the same table and just sitting down,” she finishes, “and starting to follow the lines.”

‘Automatic’ opens at Kling og Bang in The Marshall House on October 20th at 17:00. It runs for five weeks, with a programme of live and connected events.


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