Sarah Needham


Unearthed identities

Sarah Needham has a close affinity with the earth in a literal sense, as well as in a symbolic one. Pummelling rocks, clay, ochre, roots, and sediments found and sourced from across the globe to make pigments alongside sourcing international materials to make artisan oil paints. The work exhibited at the estate has been selected as its pigments related to the extensive history of the South-West of England. 

Using the archaic practice of making pigments organically and manually is as important as the final compositions. The effort in finding these natural pigments, along with extensive research of the ancestral histories and geology behind them, results in a refined body of work which often appears to be a natural occurrence.

Human inter-connectedness

The works inception often begins with an event that happens in the now, something triggers a connection with a historical event or place, from the wars described by Homer, to archaeological discoveries globally, to silk route trade and so on. She is interested in human links, so even when it’s local it’s global too.

The control of the brush strokes mimics how pigment or oil would bleed across a body of water.  This dispersion is seen throughout nature, and it is also characteristic of the exchanges between cultures, mimicking the trade of colour.

Relationships have been formed for millennia from colour. We all share an inherent desire and visceral reaction to infinite hues, although some may symbolise something different to another. They all influence us. Yet, a deeper understanding comes from the dissection of origin, to which Sarah devotes much of her current practice to.

Sea walls and ship wrecks

 Woad, indigo and red ochre in oil on Arches huile paper, mounted on a stretcher and framed with a floater frame, protected with UV varnish.

155cm high
126cm wide
3.5cm deep

In the summer, Needham discovered a new paper from Arches, a 300gsm 100% cotton rag paper called Huile, which is suitable for painting directly in oil paints. When using oils in a matt form, the paper gives a lovely soft, framing it without glazing because the surface is so beautiful. The work incorporates various pigments relating to South West land and trade, but also steel sourced from an unrecognisable piece of metalwork found in low tide at Penzance harbour.


Hand Made oil on arches 300gsm huile cotton rag archival paper, glass fronted frame.

41cm high
31 cm wide
3cm deep