Cartoon to Canvas: Behind the Scenes with Ellannah Sadkin
British-born New York artist Ellannah Sadkin recently came out of a three month residency in the cold metropolis of Detroit with Red Bull House of Art. Her paintings feel at once eerily familiar and foreign. The bold abstract paintings borrow line and shape from childhood cartoon characters we have all come to know, using their shapes to explore emotions in her own psyche.
Although not formally trained, Ellannah has been surrounded creative powerhouses her whole life. Her father was the late Alex Sadkin, a successful music producer that worked largely with Grace Jones, Bob Marley, James Brown and Duran Duran to name a few (in fact Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran is her godfather), and the artist also studied under the tutelage of two big name artists – KAWS and Ben Eine, who helped shape her studio practice.
But despite these notable names that surround her, Ellannah has decided to make her own path. She secluded herself in a cabin in Woodstock for nearly three years to focus on perfecting a body of paintings, some of which are up for grabs here at Rise Art. Read on to meet the quiet artist behind the lurid abstract paintings.
You’ve said that your work uses cartoon imagery to convey psychological states of mind. Can you explain?
I spend a lot of time researching the mind and trying to figure out why humans act the way we do. We all know what is right and wrong, yet we all have to deal with past experiences, trauma and anxiety that make the picture fuzzy. I feel like cartooning is an effective way of reducing the static in the picture. In cartoons what’s right and wrong is obvious and I have always found that comforting.
Tell us about your process.
I go through periods of free flow and stagnation like many other artists. If I don’t feel like it, nothing good comes out. If I do, it's like you wake up with a superpower. My energy and mood have a big impact on my work, I need to be in the right state of mind. Routine is very important and I lose my footing without it. It's also important to me to have space and time alone to make art - I cannot work in a busy environment.
You recently completed a residency at the Red Bull House of Art in Detroit. What was it like?
It was really tough trying to work in a busy environment. I’m usually in a cabin in the mountains where I don’t see people for months. It’s been a hard transition. But the residency inspired me to make soft sculpture, which is something which I never planned on but have always been drawn to.
Which artists influence you?
I like the Chapman Brothers a lot, and at the moment I'm mostly appreciating Polly Apflebaum, Paul Kremer, Hermmann Nitsch, Franz Ackermann. I am inspired by a lot of cartoonists such as Chuck Close. My grandfather was a caricaturist and painter. I think I naturally inherited a love of line and movement. That is what initially attracted me to graffiti.
Where can we find your work?
You can find my work on my website www.ellannahsadkin.com, and of course on Rise Art.