sarah rooney




Through painting I am interested in the process of memory as a way of structuring perspective. Much of my process was originally founded as a means to develop a visual vocabulary through which to communicate ideas of displacement and the challenge of translation. This search was initially sparked by the fact that I grew up in South Africa and Brazil and later moved to England and then Canada. My paintings emerge not from a direct depiction of these experiences, but rather from the question of how to draw references between places, which are complex and distinct from each other, and yet fused in memory and still undergoing change. In that way the paintings also explore the spatial and geographical dislocation that arises from competing visions of one's claim to a territory. Like documentary evidence of an unknown event, each painting creates a world in which personal memories of places stand in conflict with both the present reality of those places, and the reality of where I live today.

As a way of negotiating the place/space/time dynamic that surfaces in the work, I have over the years appropriated the technique of ‘underpainting’ as a style. In traditional terms, underpainting refers to the initial planning of an image, which is then used as a stepping-stone to provide a clear vision for the overall sense of the painting to come. For my purposes, however, ‘underpainting’ not only acts as a metaphoric tool to unearth things, but it also allows me to think through ways of connecting entities that are foreign to each other. The final image does not solidify into an absolute focus, but rather persists as layers in flux, engaging in dialogue with each other.

     The convergence and collision of many ways of ‘imaging’ reality point to the fact that our varying ways of seeing never quite come together, that they are always in dispute. This dispute may be a real territorial dispute, or a dispute among one’s own memories (which are themselves territorial). There may even be a dispute between what is ‘real’ and what is ‘merely memorial,’ as if the territories and places of memory held out, for a priority (although an always fleeting one,) over the ‘mere reality’ of spatial configurations at a particular moment.