Sarah Roberts at Picnic Gallery

Sarah Roberts is an artist I can't help but love; this solo showing at Picnic Gallery is my third encounter with her work. The first was a vast solo exhibition at Block 336 in 2017, then as part of a group show last year under Aindrea Contemporary. I feel such a magnetism towards her work because it ticks my two ultimate boxes: accessible and immersive. Of course these are buzzwords that many people hate but when they're executed well I feel it's really important to enjoying art on a deeper level.

Installation view: Sarah Roberts, Everything's Mustard, Picnic Gallery, London. 7 November - 4 December 2019.
Credit: Jenna Foxton

Roberts' work is known for its acute attention to chromatic qualities, and this striking aesthetic makes her a great addition to Picnic Gallery, which is located in a retail window space in the heart of Peckham. It is the sort of art that should appeal to a wide audience, for the main reason that it's absolutely joyous to look at. Aside from the fact that the objects are all domestic and familiar, the exhibition being accessible through a retail unit window makes it even more compelling; viewing and observing is what these windows were designed for.

Sadly for the context of social media and this blog, the reflections from opposite retail units make photographing the exhibition difficult and slightly pointless, but hopefully you get an idea of the artist's work from the other images. It's really fun! Roberts could have fairly easily made every object exactly the same colour, pairing it with lighting and walls of, again, the same hue, but instead there are pleasing differences. I'm reminded of the phrase "looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses", which is perhaps more closely relevant to the Block 336 show, pictured below, which was truly immersive and the best representation of Roberts' work. However bearing in mind the spatial limitations of Picnic Gallery, 'Everything's Mustard' is a positively bright and exciting addition to Peckham's Aylesham Centre.

Installation view: Sarah Roberts, Torremolinos-Tableaux-Tongue-Twister (After Sun), Block 336, London. 8 April - 6 May 2017.

In addition to the surface level 'fun' factor, it is important to note the sentimental reasoning behind the work. Roberts' object-heavy practice is heavily influenced by the artist's experience of clearing out her late mother's home after her death, and this instantly resonates with the exhibition; at a time of acute awareness of materialism and recycling, this fairly mundane array of objects including bottles and baskets makes us think of museums, classifying objects and how we think about keeping and ridding ourselves of objects.

Making the most of the window space, there is also some poetry in the foreground of the exhibition, using vinyl on the glass panes. One reads:

"Dust denies colour, the sunny intervals smooth down shadows -
A greasy yellow clouds her eyes as they rest on the mantel, the ties and the trinkets.
She slaps the fat fabric curtains to chase down the dust.
Sneezing audibly and echoing."

Installation view: Sarah Roberts, Everything's Mustard, Picnic Gallery, London. 7 November - 4 December 2019.
Credit: Jenna Foxton

Clearly, the values and characteristics of colour and the way they make us feel are all important to Roberts, but above this, the stories that each object holds, both contained within itself and put upon them by its users are held dear. This is a great element of 'Everything's Mustard', it genuinely is so accessible to the audiences passing by. Without the gimmick level of something like neon, people will stop in awe of the palette; it won't take an extravagant amount of time to appreciate and understand the work. When located in such a public spot, 'Everything's Mustard' and the centre of Peckham are a match made in yellow heaven.

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