The Fiction of Image Making: Sarah Canright Transcends Subject


Former Arthouse Executive Director Sue Graze may tell you she’s retired, but she’s not sitting at home, knitting or stamp collecting. No shade on knitters. Or stamp collectors. Graze is curating and after a few nudges from Fluent~Collaborative Director and co-founder, Laurence Miller, she agreed to work on a project for Testsite, a private house gallery. Her choice of collaborators was Austin-based artist and University of Texas faculty member Sarah Canright.

The exhibition resulting from this combination is called “Next Moves,” and is on view through December 16.

Canright’s current paintings focus on animals as a means to an end. She’s a bit ruthless in stripping animals of sentimentality and instead uses them as vehicles to explore ideas about her painting practice.

Says Canright: “Utilizing images of vulnerability coupled with pictorial organization I work towards a tangible tactility, feeling out the surface, creating with paint the visual experience of physical presence.”

Sarah Canright, “His World,” 2007, oil on canvas, 65″ x 75″.

Her watercolors are known to incorporate novel perspectives, zooming in on a dog’s head and paw from underneath, a view typically available only to its owner. Light and shadow are present but in ways that accentuate claws, mouth and nose, leaving the rest of the figure overexposed and starkly contrasted. Cropping abstracts the image further.

With its two black silhouettes onto a red circle, the impressive oil on canvas, Singing Competition (2016) doesn’t so much depict, as emblazon. This pair of canines are no longer greyhound dogs, but otherworldly sentinels standing still amidst an artificial blowing breeze and pool of ripples. Formal choices — such as the dramatic used of non-relational color and the logo look of the composition — force us to focus on the manipulation inherent in painting and the fiction of image making.

Sarah Canright, “Singing Competition,” 2016, oil on canvas, 60″ x 60″. Image courtesy the artist.

Some of Canright’s photography, which she uses in her process, is also included in the exhibition. Snapshots, are enlarged and hung amongst her paintings, sometimes by small binder clips. This helps juxtapose associations specific to media and ideas about documentation versus manipulation or transience versus permanence, as well as showing where ideas might originate.

In addition to paintings of Canright’s greyhounds, there are some eerily seductive images of birds. One untitled watercolor on Twinrocker paper, measures up a dead heron. The bird’s body was found in a park in central Florida, photographed, and later buried by the artist. Toying with the aesthetics of death, Canright renders the beauty of bending necks and limbs as well as any mannerist painter, but with more cool precision and emotional distance.

Together these “pictures of animals” demonstrate an approach fueled by an awareness and mindfulness of drawing and painting that transcends subject.

“Next Moves,” a collaboration with Sarah Canright and Sue Graze, continues through Dec. 16. at Testsite, 502 W. 33rd St. Hours: 4 to 6 p.m. Sun. appointment.



Erin Keever
Erin Keever
Erin Keever is an Adjunct Professor of Art History, freelance writer, art historian and art appraiser. She lives and works in Austin, and serves on the Sightlines board.

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