In the realm of contemporary abstract art, there exists a profound interplay between the artist's innermost emotions and the canvas that serves as their expressive conduit. Within this realm, we encounter Sara Voss, a Slovenian-born artist whose acrylic creations transcend conventional boundaries and evoke a visceral response from viewers worldwide. She started painting when life became too heavy and she felt a strong need for an outlet in a non-verbal form and tried expressing herself through painting. She was instinctively pulled towards abstract style and started experimenting with different mediums and techniques, which led her to an exploration of her own signature painting style. Her inspiration comes from everyday life events and emotions coming from within. She explores and evolves her style by following the intuitive pull towards different brush strokes, marks, the use of unconventional tools, different shapes, colors, and feelings. Her works have been acquired by collectors from all over the world.
Image courtesy of Sara Voss
Q: Your journey into painting was sparked by a need for a non-verbal outlet during challenging times. Can you delve deeper into how the act of painting served as a form of therapy or a release for you? How did it change your approach to dealing with life's difficulties?
I always had a problem with controlling and the need for closure, but life doesn't always offer you those things, and that was really frustrating for me. When a diagnosis ended my dream career as a goldsmith, I felt truly beaten down by life and found it hard to lift myself back up from there. My way of coping with difficult life situations was always to express verbally and externalize, but at that time my wife was away on business for a few months and I had all the time in the world to self-reflect non-verbally and internalize.
I just wanted to release all that build-up tension with painting, but I unintentionally found a way to accept unfinished and uncontrollable events. Anyone who ever painted expressive abstracts must have noticed that you can't control the outcome, and as I accepted that, it brought peace to other aspects of my personal life.
It is a long-term process, something I work on every day through my art practice, but I find it easier overall to cope with difficult situations in everyday life, it gave me some sort of peace of mind. It is also extremely satisfying to see this visually colorful tangible piece of art that rises from something emotionally overwhelming and I think this also adds to the depth of art, that differs it from an artist that paints purely for pleasure.
AS THE SEASONS CHANGE, 2023 Acrylic on canvas 100 x 110cm / 39,4 x 43,3"
Q: You've shared that you explore your style through experimentation with various techniques and mediums. Could you speak more about a particular experiment that substantially shifted your approach to painting or gave birth to a unique style?
When I started painting in my adult years, I had a very fixed way of what I thought the painting process should look like. This is how I function overall in life - I think about how something should be done, research it in depth, analyze it, and then execute it. This might work with photorealism, but it definitely does not work when painting abstracts. At least not for me. So I had to really force myself out of my comfort zone and push beyond the "grab a paintbrush and paint" thinking. I started using various building tools, painted with my hands, etc.. this all gave me a strong feeling of connectedness with my paintings, it felt like I really poured myself onto canvases. And those moments, I think, were the foundations for everything, some sort of revelation in my practice. This exploration of establishing a connection with my artworks was incredibly important, as I finally let go of old-rooted ways of executing. After that, I was able to paint from my heart, not from my mind.
If we look at the way children paint at the age of 3 or more, we see that pure form of expression before they are told that crayons should be held in a certain way, or that they should not paint over the edges, or that tigers don't come in blue color.
With all the limitations others and ourselves force on us through life, it's hard to tune in with yourself again, but I think I've managed to do that by setting my mind aside and just letting my intuitive pull to guide.
CONTENTMENT, 2023 Acrylic on canvas 40 x 40cm / 15,7 x 15,7"
Q: You find inspiration in everyday life events and inner emotions, a concept that is both broad and deeply personal. Could you walk us through your process of transforming these intangible inspirations into tangible pieces of art?
I was working a lot with the concept of existentialism and the emotions it brings, which I still somewhat focus on today, and I found that people prefer to turn away from certain topics or disregard them as some sort of higher power, in order to relieve themselves from accepting blame. So I was searching for a way to shape and create art pieces around a certain "uncomfortable" topic, that would force the viewer to think about it or answer it to themselves. This can be seen in the titles of my paintings and gives you an idea of what topic I wanted to address, and if the potential collector or viewer is interested in the topic, I'm happy to share the story behind the painting.
I find some sort of joy in making people responsible for their acts or forcing them to think beyond their happy bubble, and I think I did just that with my art - which was my intention all along.
I do however produce fewer and fewer paintings in this manner, as I have less uncomfortable topics to address, and eventually, when I'll have no more uncomfortable questions to ask, I'll focus on something else completely. But that is the beauty of every artist to communicate through their art and grow with it.
BETTER LEFT UNSAID, 2023 Acrylic on canvas 100 x 110cm / 39,4 x 43,3"
Q: The term "intuitive pull" towards different brush strokes, colors, and feelings is very intriguing. Can you elucidate on how you tune into this intuition? Have there been instances when this intuition led you somewhere unexpected?
I wouldn't necessarily say I have to "tune into" intuition, but rather simply follow the need for a certain brush stroke, a certain color, or an expression of a feeling, that arises inside of me. That's why I call these things "intuitive pulls" because they literally pull me towards movements, colors, etc. My paintings now are almost entirely done in this way. You can easily see expressionistic abstracts that were done completely methodically because they lack the freedom of movement and they come across as these really bad pieces.
This type of painting certainly requires a lot of trust in the process, as you sort of never know what you'll get. It is inevitable to sometimes get unwanted results, just the same as you can be amazed by the end piece, so I would say that this process almost always leads me somewhere unexpected.
Q: As a Slovenian artist living in Ljubljana, how do your cultural background and surroundings seep into your art, if at all?
I think Slovenian culture doesn't play that much of a role in my art practice. If any, I always felt like I don't belong. We're such a small country and unfortunately, those little opportunities we are offered as artists, are silently reserved for the same circle of artists, and it seems that the only praised art is either deeply depressing or focused on vulgarity, where colorful and visually joyful art apparently doesn't belong. That's really sad and I was kind of aware of this before I decided to plunge into making art full-time, so I focused more on establishing my name abroad.
I do however think, that my surroundings tend to seep into my art more than culture. I am extremely grateful to be able to live on a fairly big plot of land, surrounded by nature and away from the busy everyday life of the city. I set my studio at home, where I'm most comfortable and this also allows me to paint whenever I want, which I usually divide into smaller chunks throughout the day. If you do live in such a close connection to nature, it's probably inevitable for it to start seeping into your art sooner or later - that is something I've noticed recently, I change with the seasons and so does my art.
PLOT TWIST, 2023
Acrylic on canvas
80 x 100cm / 31,5 x 39,4"
Q: You have cited Joan Mitchell, Elaine de Kooning, Michael Corinne West, and Judith Godwin as influences. Can you describe an instance where their influence was particularly noticeable in your work? And how do you ensure that you maintain your own unique voice while acknowledging their influence?
What these great female artists did, is something women artists all over the world should be proud of. They paved the way for us and I feel the need to carry this forward in my art practice, as female artists are still notoriously under-recognised and are given far fewer opportunities in the art world, as opposed to male artists. The influence of these great female artists is a big part of my creative process that acts as a foundation block, which I build upon in my own way and interpretation, just like some other female artist might build from my practice one day, hopefully. My long-term wish is to someday be able to offer support to emerging female artists in the form of grants and residencies, to help them gain the recognition they deserve and proceed to develop their careers in arts long-term.
Q: Are there any pieces or series that presented a significant challenge or breakthrough in your career? Can you tell us more about the journey and what you learned from it?
I created a small series at the very beginning of 2023 titled "C'est moi", that really acted as a catalyst for breaking the need to create pleasing art and to focus on my creative process alone, not thinking about how many people will be offended by my art or if it will be conventional enough for the majority to like. Overall I would say I had quite a tough time figuring out my way of painting and discovering my so-called "signature style", because I wanted so bad for my art to be accepted, and I kept creating these vanilla pieces that everybody but myself, liked. This caused a constant unsatisfaction with my own work and at some point, I said to myself: "Do you want to please the majority or do you want to create from within and be happy with your work at the end of the day?". This eventually led me to where I am now and I'll be forever thankful for all those bumps on the road because that's how I grew and rediscovered myself.
MIDDLE CHILD COMPLEX, 2023 Acrylic on canvas 70 x 100cm / 27,5 x 39,4"
Q: Your art has resonated with collectors from diverse cultures worldwide. How do you ensure your work maintains a universal appeal without compromising your personal expression? Could you provide some insights that may benefit other artists looking to achieve a similar global resonance?
I think that if you stand behind what you do and really believe in your own work, people will notice, collectors will notice, and they will resonate with what you have to offer, not the other way around. This is also why I decline quite a few commissions on a yearly basis, because I don't wish to compromise my way of creating, in order to deliver a piece that the client asked for.
As artists, we have to understand that we're the ones making the rules and telling the world what our work is, how we do it, what we wanted to say, etc. So I think once you establish this and discover your own unique voice, like-minded people will follow and listen and grab on every word you have to say, every piece of art you have to offer.
I've never experienced this in any other profession before, and I believe one must be slightly mad to openly share such an intensely intimate process for the entire world to witness. We're not merely discussing a 'no-makeup selfie' to your 50K followers' level of intimacy; this is more about really spilling your guts on the canvas and putting it on display. It's both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. But at the end of the day, this is the essence of what art should be about.
Q: What critical advice would you give to young artists just starting out, especially those who are drawn towards abstract art? Can you share any personal experiences that led to this advice?
There's nothing wrong with copying when you're just starting out - copy as much as you can and through that, you will get the idea of what you like, and what you don't like, discover what moves you, and work towards that.
Create as much as you can and don't compare yourself to others. Find your own voice, don't listen to people that say you can't make a living with art, and never ever ask for opinions! No one will ever be able to understand your art the way you do, so don't expect that same enthusiasm from others, especially not from family members and friends. Apply to as many art shows, residencies, galleries, and art fairs as you feel comfortable with, and never take no for an answer. Remember that you are the one making the rules when it comes to your art!
Sara Voss's artistic journey is a testament to the power of self-expression and the transformative nature of art. Through her fearless exploration of emotions and commitment to her unique voice, she has created a captivating body of work that resonates with viewers worldwide. As Sara continues to leave her mark on the art world, we are reminded of the profound impact that art can have in both our personal lives and the broader cultural landscape.