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Sarah Ball’s practice relies on found material, sourced from newspaper cuttings, archival photographs and historical documentation, including criminal ‘mug shots’. From these images, Ball paints intricate portraits that re-establish the imagined life of the often anonymous, unknowing subject.
Physiognomy is a main concern. This supposedly outdated practice, whereby people have their character or moral compass decided by the geometries of their face, was a common 19th century method, which dictated that an individual’s appearance was connected to their ethics and character. These ideas led Parisian police officer and bio-metrics researcher Alphonse Bertillon to develop an identification system based on physical measurement and characteristics of the suspects face.
Ball is intrigued by these ideas and continues to select faces with, and without, known narratives. Some have titles such as ‘Prisoner’ or ‘Immigrant’ which inevitably forces the viewer to draw conclusions about that person’s background and consider their story. Ball is intrigued by the history of the faces she encounters and her paintings give these anonymous subjects a neutral platform where they can be judged in a new time, potentially with less prejudice. The portraits are placed on a neutral background with space around them, allowing the viewer to investigate each face in intimate, close-up detail.
Ball was born in South Yorkshire in 1965. She studied at Newport Art College in the early 80s, followed by a MFA at Bath Spa University from 2003 - 2005. She now lives and works in Penzance, Cornwall. Ball has exhibited widely and her work is collected internationally. Her work has been show at the Threadneedle Prize, The RA, Somerset House and The V&A. In 2016 Ball had a solo show at The House of St Barnabas, Soho Square and her work was shown alongside John Currin, Paul Macarthy, Juan Fontanive and Celia Paul in Dallas, USA as a part of Art for Aids TWO x TWO charity auction.