You know when you find something in your pocket that you picked up then forgot about? Familiar but unknown, a wee treasure, your fingers feel around its surfaces, its edges. Not until you pull it out of your pocket and see it in your hand do you know what it is. Sarah Kudirka’s paintings have long been about exploring the shapes and edges of stuff, kind of like that.
Described by art critic Jan Patience as “work that is beautiful, layered and thoughtful” these finely worked, exquisitely calm, semi-abstract oil paintings are about compassion and the concept of belonging. Overtly handmade, Kudirka's work is characteristically incised, scraped, oft-obliterated, deeply textured, colourful surfaces. She paints in oils mainly on linen panels but also overlays colour sketches onto Polaroid instant film snaps and found objects.
The artist's semi-abstract practice has always been distinctively low-tech for over 30 years – she pulls things apart and rebuilds them iteratively. Her ‘trashed canvases’ method is a fun, noisy, violent, extended process but one that yields her surface textures of tactile softness.
In Kudirka's latest works bowl/boat forms and shell-like swirls bring to mind the age-old human story of journeying across oceans and the gathering and sharing of food. Inspired by the artist’s sketches of tideline pebbles and shells, they whisper of beach days, staring in rockpools, skimming stones at the water’s edge and playing in sand dunes. Behind it is also the idea that in ancient times oceans were a conduit not a barrier to the movement of people.
Sarah makes pictures iteratively, over months and even years. Each has its own object memory as she revisits old canvases, ripping them apart to achieve her distinctive handmade surfaces. They are created meticulously from expanses of colour, intricate repeated brushstrokes, and repeated layering, trashing, glazing and wiping back.
Recent shows in Scotland include Tatha Gallery, Edinburgh Macmillan, South Block Project Space, Glasgow Contemporary Art Fair and Art Car Boot Sale with Patricia Fleming Gallery.
As a creative consultant, Sarah had a decade-long affiliation with Arup, the built environment engineering firm. As their inhouse global artist, working with Sir John Sorrell, Sarah developed "The Penguin Pool" from concept to being a successful global events series in 15 major cities worldwide. At Arup she also devised and piloted her "Working Without a Brief" visual thinking training course for designers and other staff.
Sarah is experienced in public-realm art delivery planning and commissioning with UK clients such as Yorkshire Water and Tideway, developers, architects and local authorities.
From 2009 to 2017 Sarah was a charity Board Member/Trustee of ACME Artists Studios in London. She has served as an elected council member of the Society of Scottish Artists and is currently a member of Visual Arts Scotland and Scottish Contemporary Art Network.
Sarah does not regard herself as a disabled artist but she is partially-deaf.
NB Until 2012, the artist was known as Sarah K. Davenport. Both her degrees and all early-career awards were gained under that name.
CV & Education
Born 1968, in England
- 1991 - MA in Sculpture Studies - distinction, The University of Leeds
- 1990 - BA (hons) Fine Art - first class, The University of Leeds
Perhaps at one time best known for her images painted over Polaroids, for over 30 years Sarah Kudirka's semi-abstract paintings on linen and canvas have explored the shapes and edges of things. A particular focus has been belonging(s) - not just the possessions we own, but how material culture is tied up with our attachment to places and people, to the past, our languages and family traditions. Across all that she does, Sarah focuses on everyday stuff; peripheral or seemingly inconsequential objects in the background of life happening. Painted words and stripes have long figured in Sarah's work too.
Sarah Kudirka (under her maiden name, Davenport) won a number of early career awards and has exhibited regularly since 1988. She has works in public, corporate and private collections in Austria, Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Lithuania, Spain, the UK and USA.
- 2023 - a bowl : a boat, The Briggait, Glasgow
- 2017- When did you last look up? London Festival of Architecture, Whitechapel
- 2017 - Berlin City Skies, Laura Lea Art & Design, London
- 2015 - Paint + Polaroids, Canary Wharf Window Gallery, London
- 2014 - City Skies, The Orange Tree, London
- 2005 - Belongings, Toni Heath Gallery, London
- 2001 - Fit and Proper, London Stock Exchange
- 2000 - As Seen on TV, bbb Contemporary Art, London
- 1998 - Vocabulary, Oliver J Benjamin, London
- 1995 - Methodiz'd, Casson Gallery, Eastbourne
- 1993 - Chairs and Stripes, Newlyn Gallery, West Yorkshire
- 1992 - Country Seat, Lotherton Hall, Leeds City Art Galleries
- 2022 - Finding the Wonder, Tatha Gallery, Newport-on-Tay
- 2012 - Stop.Start (with Rowena Comrie) SouthBlock Project Space, Glasgow
- 2019 - ArtCarBootSale, Glasgow
- 2019 - Glasgow Contemporary Art Fair, Glasgow
- 2018 - Into The City, Chapel Gallery, Ormskirk
- 2017 - The Other Art Fair, London
- 2016 - The Other Art Fair, London
- 2015 - Introducing, Roseberys, London
- 2015 - The Other Art Fair, London
- 2013 - A Postcard From My Studio, Acme Project Space, London
- 2005 to date, annually - Secret, Royal College of Art, London
- 2002 - Size Matters, Stephen Lacey Gallery, London
- 2001 - Larnaca Works Open, London
- 2001 - Raw Canvas, London
- 1999 - Artfutures, Contemporary Art Society, London
- 1998 - Larnaca Studios, Whitechapel Open
- 1995 - Wessex Open, Southampton City Art Gallery
- 1994 - Christmas Show, CCA Galleries, Bath
- 1993 - Young Artists South East, Folkestone Library Gallery
- 1992 - Art For Sale, The Guardian/Whiteleys
- 1992 - Young Artists South East, Maidstone Library Gallery
- 1990 - New Graduates, Yorkshire Television Centre
- Artist Research Residency at Project Ability, Glasgow, February 2018
- Founder of The Penguin Pool events series for Arup, launched worldwide 2011
- Public Art delivery plan consultancy for architects, developers and select clients
- Board Member/Trustee of Acme Artists Studios Ltd (charity) from 2010 to 2017
- Managed exhibitions, collection & acquisitions, Matrix Chambers, Gray's Inn
- Director's Office assistant at Tate Modern, to Sir Nicholas Serota & Vicente Todoli
- Compiled catalogue raisonne of Austin Wright, funded by The Henry Moore Sculpture Trust. Published in The Sculpture of Austin Wright, James Hamilton, 1994, Lund Humphries/The Henry Moore Foundation
- The Passey Prize in Art, The University of Leeds 1990
- Light in Art, finalist, The Prudential 1990
- British Council Major Award 1990
- Young Artists South East Purchase Prize, Kent Arts & Libraries 1991
Elected Council Member of the Society of Scottish Artists
Member of Scottish Contemporary Art Network