Carnival of Death
Sarah Sparkes, We are all Doomed
The following text is from a catalogue essay by Martin Holman, October 2009:
“There’s a work by the British artist Sarah Sparkes that raises the spectre of predestination. A lacerimmed, delicately-worked place mat is embroidered in gothic script with the omen “We are all doomed.” And, for good measure and compositional balance, the phrase is repeated. Only that Sparkes mixes the dark with the light. The mat is actually a plastic imitation, dye-stamped in a factory, and the words are painted. It imitates the sort of domestic embellishment thought “proper” since Victorian times to protect furniture valued or cherished on account of its cost or provenance from spills and marks. What its painted incantation
proclaims its decoration tries to inhibit. Handcraft to ward off, to “daintify” the inevitable into a familiar old saw, like one traded half in jest— “if the wind changes you’ll stay like that”. We know the wind will not change us irrevocably: by mouthing the warning, we give destiny the slip. Yet there it is, projected with modest means, an artwork that illuminates the “big question”: the paradox of fate and free will. The force within this deceptively simple work is its arresting tension. Sparkes’s “For what we are about to receive” invokes the table graces that offer thanks to God. It interrogates the evolution of prayer into an insurance policy that acknowledges that His grace rules.”
My work is about death, I had to admit to myself, as I sat reading a book on séances in the University of London’s special collections reading rooms, the sound of whistling wind circling the walls of Senate House. A series of coffins, cursed art works, installations incorporating the furniture of dead ancestors and domestic objects embellished with portends of our inevitable doom have made up the main body of my output as an artist for the last four years. In these works, with particular reference to my own background and experience (the suicide of my father when I was a teenager and more recently a partner),I have been exploring the livings relationship to our ever present fate. Our lives are a journey towards our deaths and with this destination looming some try to anchor themselves to the present by holding on to ‘talismans’, repeating ‘incantations’ and performing rituals. I have been making a series of works incorporating domestic objects and text, such as ‘For what we are about to receive’ which explore this subject (see image and review above). ‘Loss’ of loved ones from life brings us even closer to death for in grief we partly follow them into the abyss. Works using coffins and infinity boxes, such as ‘You Are Here’ (see image below) are in part an attempt to bring the viewer to the edge of this abyss and in so doing return them to the world of the living.