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artist profile: sara tatai

Sara Tatai is an Australian Sudanese artist. Sara has a BA in Painting and Photography from Deakin University, and a MA Design from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Sara is currently based in Melbourne, Australia.

How would you best describe your style and method?
My style is about colour, pattern and texture, and my subject is the female form. The majority of my paintings derive from life drawings; I select dynamic forms to reinterpret women I have drawn in warm up sketches. Blank, white canvases bore me so I always begin by priming them in bright yellow. After this, I work fairly quickly, applying three to four layers of paint with brushes and palette knives. I sometimes scratch patterns into the layers to reveal the colours beneath.

What is it about the female form that interests you artistically?
Throughout art history, the human form has always played a role as a communication device. My work currently focuses on the female form because I am very interested in exploring the dynamics of its structure, shape and language. Its simple, curvaceous lines inspire me.

What mediums are predominantly used in your work?
I use acrylic paint and markers on large-scale canvases. Sometimes I go to the home paint stores and buy rejected sample pots, or I get certain colours mixed.

Where did you grow up? How have the places you’ve lived influenced your work?
I grew up all around Victoria. Before I moved out of home at 19, I had lived in 13 houses around Melbourne (Spotswood/Yarraville area), Seymour, and Apollo Bay. Painting and drawing became my two constants in a life of transience. The small schools I attended in these places also very much encouraged creativity.

‘Float or Fall’ – Sara Tatai

Did your parents encourage your creativity as a child? What role have they played in your decision to study art?
My mum, a great artist in her own right, has always encouraged me to pursue my creative urges. She took me to my first life drawing class at the age of 8. I was slightly scandalised when the man I’d chatted to before class suddenly took off all his clothes and began modeling! To this day my mum and I continue to attend life drawing classes together and share a mutual love of fine art.

Name some favourite places for artistic inspiration:
Other artists and creative people inspire me with their passion and energy. It’s great to be exposed to new artistic influences, styles and thoughts on a daily basis through blogs, e-newsletters, and various websites. I also try to attend galleries as often as I can, from the NGV to studios of local artists.

‘Lay Back’ – Sara Tatai

Are there any other major interests or passions in your life that influence your work (eg. music, academic pursuits, political pursuits, etc)?
More than anything, I find that my artwork influences my life, mood and perception of the world. I suppose I could flip that sentence around and it would also be correct. Chicken/egg?

To what extent does your artwork overlap with your personal life?
I often see autobiographical elements after I finish a piece, but it’s never a conscious intent or starting point for my work. I’m always astonished at how much of my life story unconsciously appears on the canvas.

‘Two Faced’ – Sara Tatai

Who has inspired you?
So many artists inspire me. A few of my favourites include Schiele for his uniquely descriptive (and raunchy) interpretation of the human form; Matisse for his expressive linear rendering; and Whitely for his wonderfully exaggerated and curvaceous portraits of Wendy.

Have your artistic goals and areas of interest changed from when you first began? Do you feel you’ve gradually developed your own style?
Over the last year I have found myself more consciously working to develop a process and style, but I know that this will continue to develop and evolve, which is the beauty of creating art. Painting makes me happy and as long as it continues to do so I’ll always be achieving my artistic goal.

What’s next?
My immediate plans revolve around a move to Canada later this year, so I’m currently trying to secure residencies in Montreal, New York or Oaxaca. I’ve also been discussing an exhibition opportunity with the Brick Lane Gallery in London.

By Elisabeth Morgan

For all purchasing, exhibition, service and media inquiries please contact Sara by email at: saratatai@gmail.com

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