The Exposure Award 2014 at Parasol Unit in London, offers the opportunity for selected graduates to show work professionally in a gallery and to present their work during a panel discussion. This year Chelsea College of Art (UAL) graduates Jon Baker, Sarah Roberts and Aaron Wells exhibit their work. On Thursday 23 October they will discuss their practices alongside David Beech, artist and Senior Lecturer in BA Fine Art at Chelsea.

In advance of the panel discussion, and before the Exposure exhibition finishes on 9 November, we caught up with Sarah Roberts to discuss her current practice and where she’s headed to next.

a-n Art Student: What do you expect to get from the panel discussion, is speaking to the public about your work something you have done before?

Sarah Roberts: Not publicly, but I do love to talk, and I’ve always enjoyed hearing other opinions on my work in crits and other shows. Who knows, Dave Beech, Aaron Wells and Jon Baker are such excellent company that I’m sure it will be enlightening whatever happens. I’ll just have to try and keep my sentences legible and out of poetic sensory senselessness!

AS: What is your work about?

SR: I am interested in our capacity for momentary encounters with the actuality of the world. Visual frontages of buildings and places are a primary point of interest. Once seen the surfaces of things are ripe to be peeled away and then poured or smoothed into something unexpected.

Seaside escapes; the theatricality of guidebooks; shop window displays or stage sets; the rhythmic peaches and creams of a 90s bedroom; the shifting unmapped quality of natural wonders – all offer viewpoints from within and onto the world. I capture these surfaces as a palette and use them as a point of departure into making and as material to make with.

The relationship between each component in my installations is directed by formal tension and agreement, and on variation and rhythm. Subjectivity, ‘thingness’, communication and representation are key areas of investigation and there is a repetition of process too that collects singular forms, giving them plurality.

AS: What makes you choose to use particular materials in your installations?

SR: Everything has to be solid and everything has to be itself! Vinyl walls are exposed as vinyl by rolls left upended and glass is left with its blue safety pads. The material is in charge and chooses its place, whereby one element tends to determine the positioning of another, like they’re in some form of reflexive chatter.

In my latest work plaster, metal and glass have been crucial in representing a language of architecture redefined in form and matter – the subject being Borth, a Mid-Wales hinterland of pastel-coloured beach bungalows and terraces. ‘AR LAN [beside]’ (The work at Parasol Unit), whilst full of reflective surfaces, is dominated by a steel framed window. And ‘ETO? O Borth- AGAIN? From Borth’, exhibited at Saatchi New Sensations 2014, featured a galvanised panel and frame as a temporary ‘beast’, which moved between spaces to fit its temporary location.

AS: How has the opportunity at Parasol unit allowed you to develop your practice?

SR: After the degree show at Chelsea my work exploded into this bigger thing, like the first utterance of a language of excess. A spectacle that was not so loud before but which now produces a mix of materiality and immediacy, as well as form and colour. Having the space at Parasol Unit during Exposure (and then new Sensations) allowed me to really push the palette and better understand the relationship the work has with its three sites – the site of provenance (Borth itself), of making (studio) and of installation (the gallery).

To show alongside Shinro Ohtake is also real treat, the potential of his materials feels so deliciously articulate! Parasol Unit’s director Dr Ziba Ardalan refers to visiting Shinro’s studio as a “Through the looking glass experience” and anticipated that his joyful practice would complement the Exposure Award exhibition. I am really grateful for the opportunity to show in this kind of context, to work with the gallery staff and of course with Jon Baker and Aaron Wells.

AS: What are you plans as an artist now, are you involved in any further projects?

SR: I just de-installed my work at the Saatchi New Sensations show, and before that the CCW Alumni show at Chelsea College of Art. Out of these shows I made some interesting connections with emerging artists that will hopefully bear fruit. I do feel lucky, during and after my studies at Chelsea I have met some excellent people and fantastic artists who I am still in touch with. It feels like when I’m ready some kind of reunion show will be in order!

As a result of these summer shows I am meeting with a blogger/photographer to discuss a brief dalliance with the world of set design for fashion styling. It will be interesting to see how it feels to straddle that area for a while, to mix sculpture with couture. I am involved in a publication entitled ‘Some Names’ that is being curated by Chelsea graduate Joe Osbourne. Also, alongside three other UAL graduates, I have been awarded  the Artquest Lifeboat residency; a year-long programme of career support in association with Artstemps and ACAVA studios.


The panel discussion runs from 7pm Thursday 23 October and is a free event but booking is required. See Parasol Unit’s website for more details parasol-unit.org/exposure-14-award-panel-discussion

To see more of Sarah’s work visit her website www.sarahrobertsfineart.co.uk. For more information on Aaron Wells’s see www.aaronwells.co.uk and on Jon Baker, www.aaronwells.co.uk.

All images courtesy of the artist and Jenna Foxton.