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.
5 Global Regions. 1 London Exhibition. £10,000 Cash Prize.
We've kept a lid on it until now... but today we officially launch submissions for the Rise Art Prize, our debut artist of the year competition. And we want to show off a few of our star judges. What makes a good judge? Expert knowledge, industry experience and great taste. Passion for art is of course a must. The people on our judging panel have these qualities by the bagful.
1. Gavin Turk
Gavin Turk is a British artist who rose to fame in the 1990s as part of the renowned YBA group. He gained instant notoriety when the Royal College of Art refused him a degree based on his final show ‘Cave’.
But was this installation that brought Gavin to the attention of the one and only Charles Saatchi, who went on to include him in some of his controversial exhibitions. Gavin's work has since been collected and exhibited by many major museums and galleries throughout the world. You go Gavin.
Yup, that's an English Hertiage blue plaque. What a legend.
2. Beatrice Hodgkin
Beatrice Hodgkin is Deputy Editor of the Financial Times How To Spend It magazine. She joined How To Spend It after a 4-year stint as Culture Editor at Conde Naste's Easy Living magazine.
Beatrice is a print media hotshot. Not only has she had success in the magazine industry, but she has also published several books. One of her most recent titles is A Guide to Buying and Collecting Affordable Contemporary Art. Obviously we're a fan.
3. Holly Fraser
Holly Fraser is the Editor of Hunger magazine, a biannual style and culture publication that covers fashion, art and documentary. Before moving to Hunger five years ago, Holly worked for publications like Dazed, Tatler and Grazia.
Holly in fact trained as an artist initially. She studied Fine Art at Camberwell College of Art before going on to do a degree in Journalism at London College of Communication.
We got in touch with Holly to ask her a couple of things...
4. Richard Wilson
Richard Wilson is one of Britain’s most renowned sculptors. He has been nominated for the Turner Prize not once, but twice. Richard has also represented Britain in the Sydney, Sao Paulo, Venice and Aperto Biennials, plus the Yokohama and Aichi Triennals.
Richard has exhibited widely, nationally and internationally, for over 40 years. He's been involved in major museum exhibitions and created public works in countries as diverse as Japan, China, Hong Kong USA, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Australia and Iraq. To crown all of these achievements, he was elected a member of the Royal Academy in 2006.
5. Fatos Üstek
FatoÅ Üstek is a Turkish-born international curator and lecturer. She's a founding member of the Association of Women in the Arts (AWITA), an Art Nights Trustee, a member of Block Universe Advisory Board, as well as a member of AICA UK and ICI Alumni.
To top off all of that, FatoÅ is also Chief Juror for the Celeste Prize 2017 and she was on the jury for the sculpture section at the 2017 Arte Laguna Art Prize, Venice. We have a well-practiced judge in our midst.
We wanted to learn a bit more about Fatos from the wonder woman herself:
Two of art history’s long lauded masterful weirdos are finally stacked side by side in an epic exhibition- Dali/Duchamp, opening at the Royal Academy London October 7th. Shown together for the first time, the exhibition echoes a call and response between the two art history patriarchs, a visual conversation between the father of Conceptual Art and the father of Surrealism, featuring a sprawling 80 artworks throughout the show.
Despite their visual differences, the real life friends shared a penchant for absurdity, eroticism and symbolism, as well as a lifelong respect for each other’s groundbreaking oeuvres. The cliché that opposites attract has been an underlying notion in matchmaking and romance in general for decades, but who’d have thought two artists with such dissimilar practices could be such good friends?
Overlooking their 17 year age gap and more importantly the grand ego of being leaders of their own movements, Duchamp and Dali shared a closeness from 1933 until Duchamp’s death in 1968. The pair spent time together in Paris and New York, as well as summers in Dali’s hometown of Cadaqués, their days spent creating, debating and cavorting on the beach with their art world cabinet and of course Dali’s wife, Gala.
Dali/Duchamp celebrates both the friendship and the dissimilarities of the two, arranged in three sections that help to compare and contrast their works. Identities delves into their wild personalities, showing how each man’s approach to art bled into their daily lives, with an infusion of humor and wit that have defined their bodies of work.
The Body and the Object, perhaps the cause for the “adult content” disclaimer splashed across the museum’s website, takes a look at each artist’s obsessive eroticism, including a racy manuscript written by Dali, recounting an arousing memory of urinating at a seaside picnic at Cadaqués while sucking on a rock and watching Duchamp and Gala as they prepare cutlets for their lunch (yes, really. Lobster Telephone was all about sex after all).
The third section hones in on each artist’s confrontation of new ideas, science, energy and world issues, having lived through the both World Wars and incredible technological advances which profoundly affected their work.
Of the 80 works in the exhibition, visitors can expect to see “the hits” from both Dali and Duchamp’s oeuvre- from Dali’s Surrealist objects and trompe l’oeil paintings to Duchamp’s iconic readymades and Cubist masterpieces. But also joining the exhibition are exciting additions, like rarely seen photographs taken by Dali, lesser known paintings by Duchamp, writings and archival materials, as well as correspondence and collaborations between the two which help illustrate their unique friendship.
Dali/Duchamp opened 7 October 2017 and will run through 3 January 2018.
Browse our surrealist artworks
London Frieze was bigger than ever this year. Quite literally. We walked until our feet ached, but it was so worth it. Here's a list of five team favs at the fair.
Five artists whose work resembles that of Van Gogh, Picasso, Lichtenstein, Munch and Mondrian.
Rise Art goes behind the scenes with Miranda Donovan to find out about the inspiration and processes that lie behind her sculptural paintings.
Learn why Rise Art has been in the press this month and get the lowdown on upcoming artist exhibitions and art fairs.
Lori Zimmer reviews the UK's first major retrospective of legendary American artist Michel Basquiat.
Five artists who investigate through pop art the more chilling aspects of modern popular culture.
Tonight we’re hosting an all-star charity Art Auction featuring stunning works from a selection of Rise Art’s most talented contemporary artists. Before the live auction kicks off we're giving you a sneak preview of some of our artist highlights.