For an artist who works primarily in paint, pastels and sculpture, Vicki Sher has a rather interesting way of thinking about her pieces. “I use musical terms to describe my work because I experience it on an emotional level, just like when you’re listening to music,” she says. “Stacks of colour and shape vibrate and engage the viewer as in energetic song.”
That characterisation of her work is why we landed on the title of her new exhibition: ‘Colour Compositions’. Hosted at our SoHo store on Wooster Street in New York City, it’s both a showcase of Vicki’s elegantly abstract works – a series of paintings and pastels, 10 limited-edition prints that have never been exhibited before and a select few sculptures – and a tribute to the area’s rich artistic heritage.
The partnership came about because of a shared mindset between Paul and Vicki that they both believe you can, to quote Paul, “find inspiration in everything.” That, and their mutual appreciation for colour, of course. “Inspiration is everywhere, in music, poetry, Nature, design, pattern, TV, other artists’ work… I think the work I am making now is the result of digesting decades of constant visual input and developing a language that comes naturally to me,” Vicki explains. “The paintings come from within, rather from outside, but that’s only because I’ve been looking at so much over the years.”
That being said, with three kids, a husband and a dog, her day to day doesn’t look that different from every other family – that is to say: she’s busy. “I don’t subscribe to the idea that artists are ‘different’ somehow… Maybe it would be more romantic to say that I am constantly looking for beauty in things everywhere I go,” she adds. “But [they’ve] kept the shape of my life very busy and ‘normal’ for the last two decades.”
It perhaps makes a lot of sense then, that when she’s working, Vicki tries to empty her mind, preferring to work without music or any external stimuli as it interrupts her flow. The journey to picking up a brush can take its time, but once she does, she’s entirely absorbed: after a morning walk, catching up on the news and a crossword (or two), she’s ready to get in the zone and fully immerse herself in her art in her studio.
“It’s as if I’m not really thinking at all. I get very lost in the visual decision making, in a quasi-inarticulate haze of colour choices and line and shape,” she explains. “When I am really in the groove of the work, I’m not aware of thoughts, I’m in a fugue state, where it’s all colour and shape and line and decisions flow, generatively from one move to the next. It has, at times, scared me just how ‘not-there’ I am.”
As for the work itself, which draws heavily on organic forms, geometric shapes and the natural world, Vicki uses a variety of media to create her pieces, picked in large part for their versatility. “Acrylic paint gives me the most freedom to layer shapes and activity because of its quick drying time. I also like how the fluorescent colors look against the unprimed canvas colour,” she explains. “I also draw with oil pastels on drafting film [Mylar] also because of the freedom it gives me to erase, reconfigure and add and subtract without a ghost image. It allows for a looseness in the process when nothing is permanent.”
She admits it can sometimes be a lonely business, though. Working solo in a studio is isolating, of course, but it does have its upsides. “I think it affects my rhythm and pace in the world, I feel slow-moving compared to my bustling city environment,” she says. “One perk of being an artist is having a place – the studio – to try to make sense of the world. I am a puzzle doer, and through making these paintings and drawings I puzzle out questions about balance, and human experience.”
As for what’s lies beneath the surface – a deeper hidden message or meaning to her work – Vicki isn’t prescriptive: in fact, she doesn’t necessarily want you to takeaway anything in particular when you see her pieces. “There is a place for work that is ‘trying to say’ things, but that’s not what I do. This work is meant to be experienced on a gut level, like music or poetry can inspire feelings rather than ideas,” she explains. “I suppose I make things that I hope people want to look at – simple as that.”
‘Colour Compositions’ is open at Wooster Street until 9 March 2023.
EVENTS & EXHIBITIONS
Portrait Of The Artist: Kristjana S Williams
On the eve of her twin London exhibitions – ‘Landscapes Reimagined’ – opening at Paul Smith Westbourne House in Notting Hill and Albemarle Street in Mayfair, the collage artist speaks to us about her working rituals, the beauty in nature and her endless stream of ideas.
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Words: Molly Isabella Smith