30 Under 35 2020

Sarah Faux Plays with Perception

Dean Kissick

Photography by Aubrey Mayer

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Sensual, fleshly and sometimes pornographic, Sarah Faux’s paintings bring Matisse, Rubens and Titian to mind. Pinks, fuchsias and lemons set a warm, welcoming tone. Everything begins with drawing from life. She’ll pick up her sketchbook and draw people that are close to her, often very close to her, in close-up or from an odd angle. Her own body regularly crops up in these studies as well. Later she’ll work these up into larger compositions, into paintings on canvas or unique monotypes with watercolor. Lately she’s been spending time in the Lower East Side Printshop printing the latter from plexiglass plates; scroll her Instagram for some rather satisfying, striptease-like videos of that magic moment when the layers are peeled away to reveal the finished work.

Sarah Faux’s Clench and release, 2019. Courtesy of Artist and M+B, Los Angeles.

Faux—that’s her real name, not an affectation (and it’s pronounced “Fox”)—grew up in Somerville, Massachusetts and now lives in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights. Since graduating from Yale in 2015, she’s had solo shows in New York, Brussels and Shanghai, and at Frieze New York, and she’s already preparing for another in Shanghai with her Chinese gallery, Capsule. All of her paintings could be considered self-portraits, but perhaps not in the way you’d expect. “I don’t actually think of my work as primarily figurative,” says Faux. “It’s equally, inextricably abstract. My most direct self-portraiture comes through in all the ineffable elements of painting like color and materiality: somatic, emotional content.” As both an artist and a subject, she likes to hover between abstraction and figuration. Her pictures spread out into color fields and it’s easy to lose track of the number of bodies and their different parts and orientations in space. They become exercises in perception and how it shifts. “I like to keep that imagery floating in the moment right before reality coalesces,” she says. “Sort of like lying in bed too close to someone’s face to bring it fully into focus.”