Sarah Ball



Sarah Ball's most recent works are intricate and diminutive painted portraits taken from various photographic archives. In their distinct iterations and across decades, each archive delves into ideas surrounding 19th Century physiognomy - which was a widely explored and believed notion that there was a connection between an individual’s outward appearance and their inner character - in essence good people ‘looked good’ and bad people ‘looked bad’. This research progressed to include Alphone Bertillon’s identification system. Bertillon was a French police officer and biometrics researcher who applied the anthropological technique of anthropometry to law enforcement, creating an identification system based on physical measurements. Explorations of Ball's research based approach to her find her subjects has led to bodies of work dealing with police 'mugshots', immigrants traveling through Ellis Island and mid 20th century Romanian portraits. The newest works push the Bertillon system by collating several different sources that "ask" the viewer for a response.

Sarah Ball's recent work is the perfect interrogation of what is 'true'. Working from historic photographic archives of criminalized individuals, she paints in color where there was none in the photograph. Ball points to the shadow under the hairline of one of the paintings, indicating that this helped her determine (unsubstantiated) that the subject of the photo was probably a peroxide blonde. Ball cares about reality - but also demonstrates that it always springs from a one-point of perspective - the individuals.

Photos are supposed to be singular moments in time; memories of reality. Ball's approach is referencing the social order that we agree to operate within, whether we obey that order or not. Ball asserts a marvelous ability to recreate the human face in a way that is so crisp and recognizable, but pull away from the canvas and there is a flatness too that hearkens back to the original photographic source. While the central features of the face, eyes, nose and mouth, are meticulously rendered, the outer edges become far less distinct. The ears are basically flat cutouts, the clothes are barely suggested in many cases. She'll even paint the backdrop a dreary gray-brown to mimic that of a fading photograph, taken from a time before digital photography.

Sarah Ball grew up in South Yorkshire, England and studied at Newport Art College, Wales. After working in London throughout the late 80's and 90's, she returned to Wales to concentrate solely on painting and completed an MFA at Bath Spa University in 2005.

Acclaim for Sarah Ball continues to grow with paintings included in the Royal Academy of Arts, London Summer Show in 2013, 2016, 2018 and 2019. Ball was also awarded Welsh Artist of the Year in 2013 after having been shortlisted in 2007 and 2009. Sarah Ball has been shortlisted for the Threadneedle Prize in 2009, 2016, 2016, and 2018. Additional recent exhibitions include: REALLY?, Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, Curated by Beth Rudin DeWoody (2017); Anima-Mundi, St. Ives, UK (2017) (solo); House of St Barnabas, London, UK (2016) (solo); Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Cornwall (2015) (solo). Ball's first museum exhibition Unlikely Likeness, was exhibited at the Grace Museum in Abilene, Texas in the fall of 2019.

Conduit Gallery Exhibitions

Selected Exhibitions

2020 Ben Hunter Gallery, London, UK (solo)
2020 Victoria Miro Gallery, London, UK
2020 Half Gallery, New York, NY
2019 The Grace Museum, Abilene, TX (solo)
2019 Conduit Gallery, Dallas, TX (solo)
2019 Ten Gallery, Cardiff, UK
2019 Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition
2018 Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition
2018 Threadneedle Prize, Mall Galleries, London, UK
2017 Anima-Mundi Gallery, St. Ives, UK (solo)
2017 Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2016 St. Barnabas House, London, UK (solo)
2016 The Marmite Prize for Painting, London, UK
2015 Millennium Gallery, St. Ives, UK (solo)
2015 Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Cornwall, UK (solo)
2014 Conduit Gallery, Dallas, TX (solo)
2014 bo.lee Gallery, London, UK (solo)
2013 Millennium Gallery, St. Ives, UK (solo)