Manc of the Month: Sarah Eyre

I remember first seeing Sarah Eyre’s work at Twice as Nice, an exhibition at PS Mirabel in July 2018. Since then, we have followed and admired her work. We’re big fans of collage art any way, but we love how Sarah’s work explores femininity and the human form, whilst incorporating textures and layers. However, Sarah refers to her work more as photographs than collages. Read our interview with Sarah to find out more about this, and what her plans are post-covid lockdown (whenever that happens).

Cotton On MCR: Please introduce yourself and your work to the Cotton On MCR readers.

Sarah Eyre: ‘Hello, my name is Sarah. My work is mostly photographic based. I use a combination of my own photographs, and found photographs. I make small sculptural reliefs by cutting, folding and layering images, rather than gluing down the images I re-photograph them so as to include bits of space and shadow. I then destroy the original – the various bits of image I’ve cut out pop up in other images. The human body – as a shadow or a silhouette frequently features in my work – I’m interested in representing the body as something that is constantly changing. My most recent work is a project that I did for Open Eye Gallery and the University of Salford Art Collection. It was part of a project called ‘How we Remember’ – the idea of the project was to identify gaps in the public consciousness around who is affected by Covid, and document the lived experience of those who were particularly vulnerable. I chose to focus on the absences that Covid 19 has left in many women’s lives through making a piece of work that alludes to confinement, the dematerialisation and fragmentation of the physical body outside of the home, and the constant cycle of maintaining and loosing control. I made the work as a series montaged animated gifs which is a new development in my practice. I’ve got plans to make more.’

CO: What do you want the audience to gain from your work?

SE: ‘This is a difficult question to answer. I don’t think about an audience when I make work so I guess it depends on what I’m making work about. I would like an audience to enjoy my work – get some visual pleasure from looking at it. In some cases, for example my older work about wigs, they might look at a familiar object in a new way, or they might consider looking at photographs differently. My work is quite playful, sometimes I make work about serious subjects – control, shame, the female body, but I do it in a way that is visually playful, so I would like the think that the viewer picks up on some of that.’

CO: Why do you work in collage?

SE: ‘Well I call my work collage because we all understand what that means, but more accurately I think that I’m re-shaping photographs. I’m cutting, layering and folding them as a way of opening them up, or trying to get behind the image – the result looks like collage, but as I’ve mentioned already, I don’t glue (or montage) the pieces together – I make new objects out of photographs which I then re-photograph as a way of making a new photograph… if that makes sense.’

CO: As well as photography, you work with GIFS too, how did this come about and integrate with your work?

SE: ‘I’ve always considered myself a photographer (I studied photography and I now teach photography), and collage (or montage) are processes that use photography. In my case, I start with a photograph but as I’ve progressed with this way of working I’ve realised that I don’t always need to take my own photographs to cut up. There are loads of photographs out there – photographs, particularly commercial ones, are very disposable, so I like to reuse those types of photographs – by cutting, folding and layering them I can give them different meanings. I make GIFS, and these are like little animations because they are quite complex. It’s another way of re-shaping or animating a still image. They all start as a photograph.’

CO: What’s your favourite piece/ series you’ve produced?

SE: ‘That’s a difficult question, I don’t know if I have favourite images, I certainly have some that I like less. Sometimes I have a bit that I’ve found and cut out – maybe a particular silhouette or shape and I use it again and again.’

CO: What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?

SE: ‘Well I suppose the main challenge is finding time to make work, it’s difficult to make a living as an artist, so I have a day job. I’m lucky that I teach, so I’m still involved with photography, but that’s quite a demanding job so I have to be very disciplined with my spare time. I’m an older artist so getting exhibitions is sometimes difficult as I’m not really classed as ‘emerging’ or ‘young’ but I don’t really have the amount of work for a mid career artist (although I’d say it’s difficult to get exhibitions at any stage of your career). I have had some fantastic support in the past from galleries like Manchester’s Paper Gallery and more recently Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery, and the University of Salford’s Art Collection, so as long as you keep working and putting your work out there then you stand more chance of people noticing it.’

CO: What do you think of Manchester’s art scene?

SE: ‘Well Manchester’s art scene is very important to me, I have spent most of my adult life in the city, and I have been really well supported by galleries such as Paper Gallery and PS Mirabel. I have had numerous studios in Manchester and over the years have built up a good network of contacts in the art scene and I always make the effort to visit exhibitions and events when I can – that’s one of the things that makes Manchester (and Salford’s) art scenes so great is the level of support in the art community of the city. I think that Manchester has such an exciting art scene – from galleries like the Whitworth that bring in really adventurous and inspiring exhibitions, to more grass roots or studio lead projects – although who knows what will survive post-covid.’

CO: Speaking of Covid-19, what are you most looking forward to post-covid?

SE: ‘Well I’m looking forward to not being in Tier 3 or in some kind of local lockdown… then at least galleries and exhibition spaces can open. It’s great that such a lot of work is online but it’s not the same as seeing work in its physical form. I’m also looking forward to going to the pub with friends… and trying to go to loads of openings in one night just to catch up with people and hear about different projects.’

CO: If you could live in an artwork, what would it be and why?

SE: ‘I would live in an one of Ann Hardy’s installations. Ann Hardy used to create strange environments – mundane and dreamlike at the same time – she made these as installations to be photographed, she has moved on to just making environments – without the photography bit – like ‘Falling and Walking’ that was at Leeds Art Gallery in 2018. Why would I live in that art work??? I don’t know really, it appealed to me at a gut level, I just found the environment she created fascinating.’

To find out more about Sarah Eyre, head to her website, or her Instagram @sjayeyre. Read our previous Manc of the Month article with Marian Jazmik here.

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