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A graduate of Edinburgh School of Art, Sarah Muirhead is a technically-accomplished, figurative artist whose practice is rooted in forensic attention to detail. She paints and also makes drawings in a variety of graphic media. Her primary subject is the decorated and adorned human body. In addition, she produces arresting images of apocalyptic, dystopian landscape.
Muirhead’s compositions are densely packed and intensely busy. Her subjects are artfully posed, their limbs arranged in angular and sinuous combinations, which suggest a Klimt-like eroticism. The body is pushed close up to the picture plane, cinematically cropped for dramatic effect. The models are, for the most part, heavily tattooed and arrayed with jewellery. This is a court of decorated individuals; initiates inscribed with cryptic signs and symbols, whose painted skins are, in turn, painted. The artist documents a hermetic group who share a complexity of hard-won and esoteric information.
Drawing is an important process and is done at scale and with an obsessive and painstaking need to describe fully that which is seen. Her great skill in this field makes for compelling images which bring her imagined worlds powerfully to life. The ‘Disaster’ and ‘Catastrophe’ series, rendered in graphite on paper, realise nightmare visions of ruin and decay that, in turn, reference the ‘Babel’ paintings of the Renaissance. Muirhead’s contemporary take mixes up abandoned cars, destroyed ships, derelict houses and discarded ornaments into a maelstrom of storm and flood.
This young artist has developed an impressive mastery of representational technique, particularly in draughtsmanship. This enables her to make vivid and convincing descriptions of fantastic scenarios and exotic characters. Her pictures are crowded with disparate objects and dramatic juxtapositions. Such a kaleidoscopic variety of material stimulates the eye, which moves restlessly across the surface of these pieces. The mind follows, intrigued and captivated.