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Sarah Ball’s Damaged Humans

— May 2014

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Sarah Ball, Prisoner 5

‘Damaged Humans’ is Sarah Ball’s first solo show in London. Named Welsh Artist of the Year in 2013, and an encouraged artist at the Royal Academy’s Summer Show, the artists’s signature portraiture takes its starting point from extraordinary and historic photographs.

From prostitutes to soldiers, the strength of these portraits is not only the artist’s rendering, skilful and emotive, but also in the choice of subjects. These are people forgotten, and we cannot know them, yet their faces, often strangely blank, draw in the viewer. 

Many were sourced from the Stanley Burns archive in the USA, Denmark’s state archives, and from civil war photographs from the Library of Congress in DC. All evoke a sense of intimacy, a direct connection between our present and their past.

Sarah Ball’s initial collection of photography allowed her to view these subjects with utter objectivity and her ability to paint and communicate the bare debasement and impairment of each individual conveys a subtlety and emotional depth - in the subject and in the artist’s skill. 

The work provokes contemplation of the crimes or woes – the damage – of each individual subject. Ball acknowledges that all humankind experiences damage of some kind, and it is this pain, woe, experience or ailment in all of us that can be witnessed in these faces. 

The very nature and size of Ball’s work portrays the subject’s close dynamic with the photographer and the imagined uncomfortable environment the subjects endured. The results depict an artistic yet truthful glimpse into each soldier, prisoner, woman or patient. The viewer has a partial but instant view into a damaged yet tender life experience.

‘Damaged Humans by Sarah Ball’, presented by bo.lee gallery at The Coningsby Gallery, 30 Tottenham Street, London W1T 4RJ from 27 May until 7 June 2014.

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