She is one of the most elegant women I have ever seen. Her skin, slightly tanned, somewhat reminds me of the colour of golden olive oil, typical of the Mediterranean area. She glows from the inside out and transmits an energy which is almost palpable. A woman connected to the earth, her roots firmly planted in the culture, cuisine and landscape of Tarragona, the soil where she was born.
I met with Sara on a sunny afternoon in her hometown. She asked me to meet her on a terrace of the local town square. She is dressed casual but sophisticated, her hair tied up in a bun, and the red lipstick she wears matches perfectly with her skin tone. This is no coincidence. Apart from being an artist, she used to be a beautician which makes her an expert when it comes to female faces and bringing out the beauty we carry hidden within. Like no other, she knows how to highlight our best features, and how to cover up the flaws.
Her paintings only consist of female figures and faces. Landscapes inspire her but she does not have the patience to paint them. “They keep changing”, she says, “when I take a second look, it is no longer as it was”. Sara paints on earthly materials such as old, wooden wine barrels. She takes them apart and straightens them out. “This wood is like the human skin, it absorbs the paint just the same way skin would absorb oils and make-up”, she comments. “Moreover, some of them are over 150 years old. They have a history, a story to be told, and that is the reason I love to use this material for my portraits. Moreover, like the human skin, wood has its imperfections and its own specific characteristics. When I used to apply make-up onto my models, I had to adapt my colours and materials to their specific needs. With wood, it is quite the same. It is not me who choses what and where to paint, but the wood itself.”
Sara also incorporates other materials within her paintings such as nail polish, small nail polish bottles, glass, lipstick, oils, and even eyeliner and eye shadow. It is her way of combining her passion for cosmetic products with art and painting. She tells me that as a kid she would use wax crayons to colour her lips, wearing a different shade to school every day. As is common here in Spain, she used to go to a religious school where the teachers were nuns. Of course, her painted lips were frowned upon but she would just cheekily respond that her mouth was naturally so. Moreover, wax crayons are difficult to remove once applied, leaving her (and the nuns) little choice of changing the situation. Her mom was quite the opposite and did not care much for the outer appearances. “Pretty much just soap and water”, Sara comments. “I used to beg her to buy me make-up and perfumes but my mom never did. She accused me of being in love with an ephemeral art, as make-up is removed from the face at night before going to bed. That might be the reason I paint my portraits on wood, so they can last forever.”
I ask her why her oeuvre purely consists of women but she does not really know the answer. The females she paints are imaginary and slowly surface as Sara paints them patiently within her atelier. “It is curious”, she ponders, “when I finish the portraits I often discover that they resemble people I know. I guess I unconsciously register certain features from different faces which then come together within my portraits”, she concludes. Sara shows me an album which she has brought along with her. It has some images from her early work and then ends with her latest exhibition. It is interesting to see that the woman she paints seem to age as the years go by. Her latest portraits are of more mature, wise women. Their facial features are more pronounced, their hair sometimes grey, yet they transmit an internal force, determination, and serenity that can only be the result of years of life experience. I do not know how Sara does it, and surely there is no technique that can explain it, but is almost as if the wood and the portraits are combined in order to create an energy that goes beyond the paint, the nail polish and the make-up. Each and every portrait is narrowly connected to Sara and her life, even if she herself seems not to be aware of it.
Sara’s work is an ode to life, to colours, to women of all sorts and features. Looking at her portraits is like seeing a reflection of ourselves. These women are anonymous yet, even though they do not have a name and might not exist in real life, they tell a story and transmit an energy that is unique. Just like each and every one of us.