Having been awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Charles H Cecil Studios in Florence and working primarily with oils, painter Sahara Longe approaches a canvas with all the training of a Renaissance studio apprentice – and a distinctly different perspective.
Where her early paintings frequently reframe Western art’s go-to tableaus (Fall of Man, The Three Graces), swapping black bodies into a markedly white visual history, Longe is increasingly replacing that traditional precision with more languid lines. Whether wielding Old Masters’ rigour or a dynamic energy more akin to Impressionism, human figures are undoubtedly the theme to which Longe returns most frequently. In nude studies and oil portraits, painted from life, memory and imagination, Longe’s subjects feel more like characters in a story than specimens observed from a remove.
In Garden Party, a couple dressed in black embrace passionately beside a female figure in a red gown who meets the viewer’s gaze; in Wash Day, a naked woman faces away from us, her face reflected in the mirror of an expectant basin. In Sketch, a man and a woman lounge on a bed; as in Wash Day, the female nude turns away from us only to find her face caught in a mirror, allowing our gaze to meet her blank face after all. What have we seen? And who has seen us?
Describing her practice as ‘for women’ as much as ‘about women’, Longe’s paintings foreground their female subjects casually and instinctively rather than with a heavy-handed agenda. In small sketches and canvases more than two metres high alike, Longe takes on established languages of power and makes work which ushers it into new arenas; the male gaze that infuses so much of art history is not such much inverted as disarmed beneath Longe’s brush.
Throughout Fall of Man, her first solo presentation, Longe employs hallmarks of painting’s canon in service of identities historically excluded from it. Looking at women as they see themselves, at the heart of a human-scale story as much as a biblical epic (Eve meets our eye in Longe’s Fall of Man), the artist’s proposition rings clear through its various – and insistent – reiterations.
Sahara Longe lives and works in London, England. Selected shows include Young Artist Partnership, London, 2018; Heart of the Matter, Gillian Jason, Norwich, 2021 and IRL (In Real Life), Timothy Taylor, London, 2021. In October 2021, Longe will attend the Palazzo Monti Residency. Longe's work is in several important collections in the UK and the USA including those of Josef Vascovitz and Linda Goodman, Hannah Rothschild and Simon Nixon.
Since 2009, Ed Cross Fine Art has worked with emerging and established artists across and beyond the African diaspora. The gallery seeks to stage conversations – between practitioners, international audiences and as guided by its artists – to amplify voices historically silenced, and to create space for their independent development.
For more information, artist interview requests and high res images, please contact Emily Watkins (email@example.com).