A conversation with Sarah Sze ARTIST, USA Anna Dickie London 27 Jan. 2015
Sarah Sze, who represented the United States at the last Venice Biennale, uses a myriad of everyday objects to create site-specific sculptures that are often monumental in size, and always of astonishing intricacy. Daughter of an architect and graduate of painting from Yale, her practice draws on the formal considerations of both architecture (through a careful manipulation of space and movement), and painting (through her use of colour, texture and composition). To view a Sarah Sze work, is to be reminded of how we experience the world through extreme shifts of scale—absorbing the overall installation, while being equally drawn to the detail of its carefully constructed sub-compositions.
Sarah Sze, Model Series, 2015. Installation, variable dimensions. Image courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London © Sarah Sze This interview takes place as the artist installs her current show at Victoria Miro, the first with the gallery since her successful exhibition, Sarah Sze: Triple Point at the U.S. Pavilion in Venice in 2013. The exhibition spans the gallery’s two addresses: a field of small sculptures inhabit the Mayfair space; while at Wharf Road, site-specific installations consume its three floors. Speaking with the artist she explains that one of the ideas central to the exhibition involves a consideration of how units are combined to create a whole, or how a whole breaks down into new wholes. Related to this is her exploration of how one uses materials to model ideas that are impossible to model, like the psychological or emotional units of time. In this interview, Sze also goes on to discuss the relationship between her work and painting and her use of literature and chance, referring to her works as experiments which attempt to raise questions, the answers to which she hopes lie somewhere beyond the imagination.
It has been over two years since your last exhibition at Victoria Miro. In between you represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. What are the ideas central to this show in London, and to what extent do they relate to what you were exploring in Venice?
I love this great Lawrence Weiner work that is at the Walker [Art Center] called Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole, and this relates to something I think about in my work. I am very interested in the idea of smaller units that add up to a whole. So that is one idea.
In this show, each space is very different in character, but they all are spaces where when you walk in, you have a sense of an overall landscape that fits together as a whole.
I was also interested in this idea of modeling, and how you model an idea that is impossible to model. This was something I was thinking about in Venice, but it has become more focused here.
For this show, each room has a very specific question to it. For example for the Mayfair space, I focus on the question of how you model an idea. Then in Wharf Road on the top floor there is a piece that is really all about rocks and how they break down as materials. It has this strong [sense of] landscape, but it plays with colour and weight and is really about questioning materials and their breakdown.
Sarah Sze, Stone Series, 2013-2015. Installation, variable dimensions. Image courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London
You have been resident at The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. How has that experience filtered into the ideas relevant to this exhibition?
I started working at the Fabric Workshop right after Venice. There is one piece that acts as a calendar of every day that I was in residence—we are showing about three months worth at Victoria Miro. This piece comprises pages from the newspaper, which I took each day and have made into a sculpture.
It became a marking of time or a calendar in real space and the question in the questions became: How do you measure either space or time through materials or objects? What is our behavior in doing that? How do you make sense of the moment in time—why is one minute any different than the next? How do we mark time not only physically, but emotionally or psychologically?
I wanted to consider how time cannot be made into units because events and time have a different length and importance that is measured, not in a quantitative way physically, but in a quantitative way psychologically and emotionally.