My work is a jumble of personal narrative, myths and archetypes; positioning the desirable, the morbid, the maternal and the sexualized, with the familiar everyday. Tensions between desire, loss, humor and the body are played out through the marriage of materials, images and objects. I am drawn to images and objects that come from another era and which arouse nostalgic feelings and notions of femininity and desire. The work engages with the history of craft, I combine found objects, with which I often have a personal connection, with handmade ceramics, embroidery, casts and clothing. The body is fragmented, fetishised and displaced as it becomes a relic of a psychological or bodily experience. I seek to preserve and reanimate these artefacts imbuing them with meaning and memories, entering them into new relationships. I am fascinated with beauty and the domestic and their ability to subvert and cover up what we would rather not see.
‘Gillham’s work looks quite refined…, yet there are hints of the prosthetic, of a body displaced and replaced. The customized second-hand furniture absorbs the images pinned to them. Excised from another context and era these reproductions seem carefully selected to resonate nostalgic feminine luxury; (in To lie next to you 2008) a stone carved head with undulating waves of hair, the exterior staircase of a stately home, a ceramic rose with petals edged in gold. What unites these images is the way they suggest a shift between material states, poised to spring, Pygmalion-like, to life. Using the slightest of means, Gillham debases these elegant, reserved, sexualized images by forcing them into a complex relation with the unloved, everyday, cast-off objects on which they are positioned.’
From ‘The pleasure’s all mine’ press release, Transition Gallery 2009 written by Rebecca Fortnum. Rebecca Fortnum is a Reader in Fine Art at University of the Arts London and author of Contemporary British Women Artists, in their own words.
'Gillham’s …quilted wall hangings display stylized mirrored female figures that are inspired by mythological and archetypal women. They reflect some of the concerns that occupied a celebratory strand of feminism associated with the ‘traditional’ feminine crafts like those Judy Chicago promoted with her celebrated The Dinner Party ‘ (1974-1979) shown in London in 1984. Like Chicago, Gillham uses vaginal or "central core" imagery, as it came to be called, as a significant feature of her work. Her use of vaginal imagery should not be read literally, but metaphorically, as an active and powerful symbol of female identity whilst at the same time exploring her own fantasies and desires. Such fantasies are expressed through quilted combinations of found and new textiles, wool blankets, eiderdowns, clothing and vibrant lace and velvet…In her work the body becomes a tool (as well as her materials) for its transformation and this propels us, as viewers, to reflect on the body of the work as well as our own bodies, as essential to the making of meaning through form.'
From ‘Homespun Mythologies’ press release, Blyth Gallery 2011 Written by Janis Jefferies.
Janis Jefferies is an artist, writer, curator and Professor of Visual Arts in the Department of Computing, Goldsmiths University of London
'It is perhaps no coincidence that Sarah Gillham made I think I might be drowning (2009) shortly before getting married. On the round mirror, atop a short glass pedestal, an alluring black and white nude seems to peer down to a little girl, locked under a bell jar. The artist’s future self is looking at her past self: the mother-to-be remembers the infant-that-was. This sense of anguished introspection is reinforced by the two looking glasses; the piece literally mirrors some of the anxieties occurring at a crucial stage of Gillham’s life.'
From ‘Condensation’ press release Danielle Arnaud gallery, 2011 written by Coline Milliard. Coline Milliard is an art critic, journalist and editor. She has published in periodicals including Modern Painters, Art Monthly, Art Review and Art in America.