Does this work? Does that work? Why am I doing this?
by Benjamin Newell, freelance art writer and artist.

I met Sara about 6 years ago. In a smoke fueled bar. On a dark knight. The streets where rain soaked. Wolves growled in the moonlight. I wore a mack. No we weren't Bogart and Bacall. Perhaps it was a film I watched that evening. Anyway we were two artists, no wait I can't say artist I convulse slightly, I always associate artist with X-factor, lets say practitioners of art. Anyway it was gloomy, no I think the bar was gloomy but the evening was sun drenched. 2005 was a sun drenched summer. I think it was the Wee Red Bar in the art college. Yes and we both talked about Venice. And we drank cider. Swedish cider. I think we had just both got back from Venice. There was a common ground. We had seen the same shows. We spoke and shared the same enthusiasm for art. Not the blah blah blah, Malboro Lights, espresso and rum coke splish splash splosh art that simmered beneath the Edinburgh scene, but the cold beer, steak and chips brand of art without the hollandaise sauce.

I was an angry young artist. She was a calming influence. A platonic Harold and Maude.

The conversation flowed with ease and our ideas bounced off each other. Like a pleasant game of tennis or ping pong. A gentle jog. There was some nice fore hands and the occasional back hand but no cross court volleys or sliced back hands. We talked about arts ability to bring people together and offer an escapism that the art we regularly encountered failed to do.

I first saw her art up front and personal in this little shack of a space near the Grassmarket. She was making a zoo. A zoo I thought. I always felt the art college was like a zoo. Artists trapped behind the bars. But the bars were more like books. Big thick books. Like telephone books. The zoo was good. I didn’t really know what is was for because the animals weren’t real they were drawn but perhaps that was the point. Not everything needs a point. Just a say, a mention, a fierce forehand that needs not returning. 15-love! Doesn't always have to be advantage McEnroe.

Over the next year Sara gave birth to the idea of the Back Garden Biennale (2006). She asked, tentatively, would you write for it? I said hell yeah ill give it a stab! I gave it a stab and produced a brief but enlightening text – it was fair to say I was inspired. For once I didn’t write a gibbering slice of tosh. It made sense. Then the show itself came about with Sara as its conductor. She wasn’t as much a curator but a lighting bearer. A conductor of picnic culture – take it or leave it.

Sara's interpretation of the “biennale” was more of a garden fate of art exhibitions. Frivolous and fun. The flip side to the VENICE BRAND but on a much more manageable scale. Whereas Venice is a buffet of ideas, the BGB was a 3 course menu. An open community where at the fore front is beer in bin barrels (everyone wants a beer before looking at art), charcoal flavoured beef burgers and flowing fluffy banter. The filler in this “community” is the art which brought these merry band of revelers together. “Oh look at this”, they would say, “Is this art in a garden shed? How wonderful?!” For some reason when I think back to the BGB it reminds me of Peter Weirs film “The Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1975), thankfully for Sara no one went missing but the warmth and glow of the BGB is that of Weir's mysterious and beautiful film.

Perhaps Sara should become a film director? The next Barbara Streisand?

The art which Sara accumulated was of the popcorn kind. That's not to say it was art that you could throw down your gullet and wash down with a frosty brewski and gush “aargh man that was good!”. Sometimes you would get a bit of art stuck in your teeth and you would thumb and finger at it trying to get it out. Rubbing your tongue at it in that sun bathed June evening. It contributed to a frisky evening of art love. Like foreplay, but without the fumbling in the dark. Or perhaps I was the only one hot under the collar! You weren’t worried about treading on someone’s toes or pinching the wrong ass! It was cuddly.

Over time Sara would produce more art that was frisky and easy to devour. Her work is intimate and sincere. She likes an audience. An audience ready to plunge in their fork. But there is a layering there. Like a deep and tasty Shepherds pie. Sometimes you really need to dig that fork in to get a good chunk. The further you dig into the dish the more flavours you fined. Her “Recipes” series (2007) was a vibrant and funny take on performance art. Like throwing a bucket of cutlery into the microwave and wacking it on high whilst eating a jammy dodger. She had now gone from gentle back hands to over head smashes whilst winking at you. Why is she winking you would say?

We collaborated again on a show at the Market gallery in the East End of Glasgow in September 2007. What I remember the most from that show were the local kids coming into the gallery and whailing in their weegie accents “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatsss thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!”. I remember turning to them, slightly boozed, replying “AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRTTTTT!”. The paint, the splatter, Sara in her Fanny Craddock guise swooning instructions to her two volunteers of how to splatter paint!

The kids were transfixed.

Sara is an artist who cares. She wants to make a difference. She wants to be involved. She wants people involved. She is a tentative artist. One day she makes baby steps others she makes big steps. As self critical and analytical as the stereotyped artist a la Pollock, Van Gogh and co. She challenges herself. Does this work? Does that work? Why am I doing this?

Sofia, Bulgaria
Water Tower Art Fest - 2011: Sofia, Bulgaria