Spotlight Interview with Sandra Menant Art who is exhibiting her abstract work on Artwork Portal and Sussex Art Fairs
Thank you for speaking to us about your art journey. Where did it all begin for you?
I started painting ten years ago, when I was on a sabbatical from teaching Spanish after a difficult period of my life. But there were 3 tonnes of fine art books at home when I was a child as part of my daily life which continue to inspire me. At the age of 50, I went to an art shop and bought my first canvas and acrylic paints because I don’t like the smell of white spirit that comes with oils! It started as therapy and as a mindful exercise. I only painted for myself, absorbed in ‘letting go’ and in rediscovering a positive attitude with which to move forward. I became deeply absorbed in my artwork and they started to sell. I left teaching in 2016 to become an artist entrepreneur and have now sold more than 80 paintings and it has become the motivating force in my life. My great grandfather Marius Menant was a painter in Paris in 1886 but could not make a living from art so became a draughtsman for a lamp designer. My grandfather, Jean Menant, painted all his life, and my father, Elie Menant, began pastel work when he was 60, creating some 350 artworks. I was named Sandra, an Italian version from Alessandra, because my parents loved Italy so much: the culture, the art and landscapes. As a child, going to art galleries and museums was part of the joys of life; I admired paintings above other art forms.
From who or from where do you draw inspiration for your work?
Two ukiyo-e Japanese artists have mainly influenced me: Katsushiko Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige created so many stunning, original and balanced compositions, using round lines, trees acquiring supernatural dimensions with moon motifs. and water forming part of their inspiration. They were a deep influence on Van Gogh in terms of composition. I also admire Monet and Albert Marquet along with many Impressionists and am attracted to the vibrant palette of the symbolist painter Odilon Redon. Paul Gauguin and the Fauve movement took colours to a higher level, where vibrant shades take precedence over subject: I am a colourist essentially, with a preference for vibrant pigments. I draw my inspiration from extensive travel: Latin America; Central America, in particular Cuba and Mexico; Madagascar; Europe; and South East Asia. In my work, nature in all its forms and beauty is mixed with strong cultural motifs to create atmospheric paintings. The viewer can reflect on how the work chimes with their own thoughts and emotions. The ‘Volcanic Series’ was in my mind for years before I took up a brush. Lava flows and iconic glowing slopes kept me dreaming. The moon is a recurrent motif, and vivid dreams are also a storyboard for my imagination. I paint atmospheric paintings, mainly abstract or semi-figurative, in which my emotions can find expression.
You seem to work in a few different mediums and materials – do you like to experiment with what you use to create art and how would you describe your artistic style?
From the beginning of my painting journey, colours, texture and atmosphere are the essence of what I wish to create. I experimented on matt black canvases, to add mystery from the first stroke of vibrant, flowing paints. To my surprise, most of those paintings sold straight away. Using dry pigments mixed with varnishes or spray, I enjoy the powdery effect and beauty that it creates. Spontaneity and the mood of the moment plays a great part in the evolution of the work. The melting of oil pastels with fingers is very sensual and, I believe, similar to the pleasure of cooking. I often start with a background texture, building layers of acrylic, gesso and flowing varnishes. They guide me to abstract compositions and the fun of following wood veins or the joy of natural motifs emerging. I start with an idea from memory and strong emotions, allowing the story to be told through the painting. I have painted landscapes or semi-figurative works with chalk paint, sand, gold leaf or metal bars, and even Perspex bars to catch the light. I am lucky to have an artist’s ‘den’ where I can store and cherish my special paints and secret varnishes.
Why are your designs so different to other artists within the industry?
I will let my clients’ feedback from a recent survey answer that: “Your paintings often make me travel through colours and textures. I love the abstract element, and I always want to touch them. The themes of water and Asia are probably my favourite because they are mysterious and puzzling.” JG London, UK “I love the energy in the colours combined with elegance and the creativity.” RI, Italy “I like your artwork for the sense of flowing, serenity and freedom it gives, as much as for the various emotions which emanate from the canvases: from peaceful to joyful, the range is rich. The sense of psychological depth is another element I find attractive, along with the exotic atmosphere you create.” CD London, UK
How do you stay relevant and current in a world full of creatives?
My new series, ‘South East Asia’, started development in my studio in January 2020 after months of travelling in India, Myanmar and Thailand in 2019. It was a journey of collecting landscapes in my mind, sharing moments of grace with the people, discovering new colours and the wonderful cultural heritage in those three countries. The material collected in my heart and imagination for painting is an endless source at present. The restrictions of three lockdowns in London have made it even more important for viewers to escape through my artwork and travel with their emotions and memories. “Your paintings make me travel to other countries.” RS Madrid, Spain I believe my original paintings are timeless and have to be seen in reality to be fully experienced. From the start, 10% of all my sales are donated to the Wateraid UK Charity. Water is one of the most precious and basic human needs: I taught this to my teenage students, via films and documentaries, linked to Latin America, and would like my clients to support this cause too. Yes, the world is full of amazing creatives; it has always been. But the opportunity to share work online opens new horizons for those without formal training and art lovers and collectors appreciate my original and unique artwork.
How has social media impacted on you as judging by your online presence you seem to embrace this?
Over the last few years, social media has been a key tool in building my audience, inviting art lovers to my Open Studio events and exhibitions. I am an artist entrepreneur so promotional work has to be conducted professionally and regularly to reach an audience. I have published an artist’s profile which is quite personal: I hesitated about revealing my background, but many were curious about my life in the context of my creations. This is clear when art lovers meet me in person at the Open Studio. It is those conversations and the story behind a canvas which deepen the meaning of each painting. I embraced Mailchimp and conducted a survey of my clients, asking which aspects of the work attracted them – I was rewarded with quite illuminating comments. Instagram posts are an essential window onto my latest work; my website is used as a showcase and a blog too, and I have organised my paintings in Series to guide art lovers through my catalogue.
How has your brand grown to where it is now?
What has contributed to your success? I started with a solo show in a gallery in 2014, then participated in collective exhibitions and have staged very successful Open Studio events over the last few years: my paintings have to be seen in real life. No matter how professional the photography is, it is impossible to render the textures or the variation of light effects in my paintings onto a screen. Little by little, I was persuaded to continue regular promotion through social media and become more personally visible, while still preserving time to paint with the same enthusiasm and dedication. It is crucial for people to see my paintings and critique them. Describing the process of creation is quite difficult but it can influence who will come to view my work and how they view those paintings.
Have you worked with any galleries or brands or completed any important commissions you can share with us?
I have exhibited with: – The Cult House Collective – A Brick Lane Gallery – Cannizaro House in Wimbledon – The Flux Exhibition of Lisa Gray – The Grid Art Fair – Rose & King Gallery (Mayfair and Paris Garden, linked with Halkin Offices). I have recently been accepted at the Nude Tin Can gallery in St Albans for their Spring Back Exhibition from 14 April to 5 May, 2021. A significant proportion of my sales come from my Open Studio events, which I hope to resume shortly.
Which projects are you really excited about for 2021 and are there any future plans you can share with us?
I am extremely happy to have been selected to participate with a stand at Sussex Art Fairs in July. This prestigious venue will engage many select art lovers and art collectors and will be the perfect opportunity to promote and discuss my new paintings. One of my objectives for 2021 is to be taken up by a gallery on a longer contract. I also look forward to meeting fellow artists, gallery owners and developing contacts for future exhibitions – this will be a real highlight in 2021 following on from lockdown! Another important event for this year is my participation on the Artwork Portal platform, a fantastic showcase for 16 of my paintings. I admire its professionalism and beautiful presentation which, coupled with links to the prestigious Sussex Art Fairs, are of the utmost importance for me as an emerging artist. I have long believed my original paintings would be attractive to interior designers, as many clients commented on the impact my artwork had in their living space. Consequently, I have been actively involved in Design Week at Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, networking and presenting. I have compiled a bespoke portfolio for interior designers, in which my original paintings are presented in the context of room styling. It would be a fantastic opportunity if some of my paintings were included in their galleries and interior design projects. I am establishing initial contacts and am hopeful of future collaborations.
See a selection of work from Sandra Menant Art HERE