A Week of Canadian Painting: Sarah Cale

Because we are a Canadian-run publication and we admire those who continue to work with the arguably dated medium of paint, in the arguably dismal landscape of the Canadian art-world, we have decided to do a week-long feature on some of our favorite current Canadian painters, in no particular order. Stay tuned this week to see who we believe to be among the greatest established and emerging painters the Great White North has to offer!


Shapeshifter, 2015  24″ x 18″  oil on canvas adhered to oil on panel

When you look close enough everything becomes abstract. But the act of vision, of seeing, paradoxically, is almost automatically a figurative experience. Pattern-seekers they call us. Faces in the clouds, etc. Arguably, then, the strategy of abstract painters isn’t necessarily to dissemble reality, truth, or meaning, but to find its more essential quality. In Sarah Cale‘s work, like with most abstract art, we are asked to come to our own conclusions. What are we looking at? The answer is always subjective, of course, but the subjective nature of vision speaks to the fundamental uncertainty of the world at its most basic level. Is it a particle or is it a wave? We don’t know until we look. In Sarah Cale’s work, which relies heavily on empty space, bold color, and the distortion of familiar shapes and forms, reality/truth/meaning is distilled into a very potent and aesthetically enticing essence.   

Where did you grow up? What was the landscape like?
In St. Andrews, New Brunswick, a small town on the Bay of Fundy. The town is surrounded by the ocean and is beautiful and picturesque. As coastal landscape its climate is also susceptible to bouts of extreme moodiness; the atmosphere will rapidly change from sunny and sweet to dark and brooding. This mysterious and unpredictable shadowy side makes it very interesting to me.

Do you think being Canadian has had any impact on your work?
My Canadian-ness has shaped my approach to painting. Growing up in New Brunswick my influences were largely craft-based. I’ve adopted techniques in my work stemming from sewing, weaving and collage.

What is your favorite medium to work with?

5th Dimension

5th Dimension, 2015  20″ x 16″  oil on canvas adhered to oil on panel

Strange To Be Yourself

Strange to be Yourself, 2015  20″ x 16″  oil on linen adhered to oil on panel

Lazy Telepath

Lazy Telepath, 2015  20″ x 16″  oil on canvas adhered to oil on panel

Into Shards Crude Stars

Into Shards, Crude Stars, 2015  78″ x 72″  oil on linen adhered to oil on canvas adhered to panel

What themes do you work with, if any?
My recent work focuses on transcendence in abstraction’s history. Paintings are more of a meditation on this history though, rather than a literal reenactment. Instead, there’s an expressive remove in the way they are made that constructs and slowly crafts painterly gestures with collage. Titles of my work make spiritual references, sometimes sincere, sometimes tongue in cheek, but always in an attempt to illuminate the creative process as spiritual in nature.

Are you inspired by any Canadian painters?
Yes, Paterson Ewen’s paintings are magical and materially unique. They are very sensitive but also violent in the way they are hacked up. I also like the painter John Brown for some of the same reasons. I’m very fond of Harold Klunder’s work, as well as Sandra Meigs. Gordon Peterson is hands down the best painter in Canada.

Is there any one painter who has influenced your work more than others?
When I first started out I was very influenced by Terry Winters.

Are you drawn to any particular historical art movement?
No particular movement currently but Agnes Martin’s life and work is fascinating and she might have been a movement onto herself.

Do you consider your work to be political?
Not overtly political.

What do you think is missing from the Canadian art scene?
Its own set of balls.