Sarah Ball’s meticulously rendered portraits explore themes of gender and identity. Demonstrating an acute sensitivity to the psyche of her subjects, she emphasises physical characteristics that define how we outwardly portray ourselves to the world.
Ball uses source material such as newspaper cuttings, archival photographs and social media to inform her portraits. Often depicting people who celebrate self-expression and contest traditional binary norms, Ball highlights physiognomy, hairstyles, clothes, jewellery and make-up that reveal the idiosyncrasies of her anonymous, often unknowing sitters. Set against flat planes of colour and confined within closely cropped compositions, the artist lends the people within her work a surreal, timeless quality by denying the viewer any form of narrative about their identity.
Stephen Friedman Gallery presented its first major show of Ball’s work at Frieze New York in May 2021 and her first solo exhibition in London in January 2022, accompanied by an illustrated catalogue. This project revealed a newly abstracted visual language for the artist. By realising the portraits on a larger scale, Ball further explored what she describes as the “physicality of painting.” Recent work has seen Ball amplify the pared-back quality of these paintings through the fluid, colour-rich medium of chalk pastel. A selection was presented for Art Basel Hong Kong’s Kabinett sector in 2023.
Recent group exhibitions include ‘A Living Collection’, Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK (2023); ‘Being In the World’, Long Museum, Shanghai, China (2022); ‘I'm stepping high, I'm drifting, and there I go leaping', Xiao Museum of Contemporary Art, Rizhao City, Shandong Province, China (2022); ‘From Near and Far: Collage and Figuration in the Contemporary Age’, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London (2022); ‘Space for Imaginative Actions’, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany (2022); ‘Friend Zone’, Half Gallery, New York (2021) and ‘I See You’, Victoria Miro, London, UK (2020).
Sarah Ball was born in Yorkshire, UK in 1965. She currently lives and works in Cornwall, UK. Ball studied at Newport Art College in the early 1980s and completed an MFA at Bath Spa University in 2005. Profiles on the artist have been published by The New York Times, Artsy, House & Garden, and Creative Boom.
Ball’s works are included in the permanent collections of the British Museum, London, UK; Grace Museum, Abilene, Texas, USA; Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK; Kistefos Museum, Jevnaker, Norway; Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany; Long Museum, Shanghai, China; Pond Society, Shanghai, China; Rachofsky Collection, Dallas, Texas, USA; University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, Wales and Xiao Museum of Contemporary Art, Rizhao City, China.