Sarah Ball - New Now London Thursday, December 8, 2022 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • “I remove objects that tie the subject to a specific time or place, allowing me to reveal the human person in the present.”
    —Sarah Ball
    The titular Marie stares at the viewer with a deep and intense gaze in this strangely serene 2019 work by Yorkshire-born artist Sarah Ball. Enhanced by rosy cheeks and thin, tightly pressed together lips, her pale skin is strikingly luminous, framed by the thick fur coat wrapped around her head and shoulders to insulate her from the cold. However, the muted brown backdrop surrounding her also leaves room for the viewer’s imagination; or, as the artist explains, ‘I like to think that removing any sense of figurative background or scene creates an emotional space’i. This emptiness allows Marie to exist beyond time and space and helps us envision the narrative hidden behind the features of her face.


    Included in the 2019 exhibition Themself at Anima Mundi Gallery, Marie is among the portraits in which Ball specifically explores the links between the physical presentation of the self and traditional binary norms. The artist indicates that she is ‘interested in all aspects of the human condition, including sexuality and gender, which are intrinsic to our identity’ii. By conveying an extraordinary humanity to her subjects, Ball creates a visual empathetic dialogue between them and the viewers; as we observe these anonymous portraits, we are led to consider the many factors that affect our interpersonal interactions in a socially constructed world.

    The source materials of Ball’s paintings are found photographs from historical archives, newspaper cuttings and social media. Her aim is not to reproduce every detail accurately, but to draw attention to distinctive characteristics that stand as manifestations of the identity. The artist sometimes interacts with her models but 'like[s] the idea of being removed from any relationship with the sitter', the distance allowing her to ‘expand on the purely figurative’iii. Through a painting technique involving gesso, multiple layers of thin paint and extremely precise small brushstrokes, Sarah Ball achieves a smooth, immaculate canvas verging on photographic immediacy.

    A vibrant example of Ball’s portrait paintings, Marie stands as an invitation to think about the assumptions and judgments used to categorise people. By observing a variety of faces, we also take an intimate look at our self. How do we present ourselves to the world? And how does the world see us? Reminiscent of historical portraiture painting, Ball's works are strikingly anchored in the present.


    Born in Yorkshire in 1965, Sarah Ball graduated from New Art College in the 1980s and completed an MFA at Bath Spa University between 2003 and 2005. Her work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy, the V&A Museum and Somerset House among others, and is included in renowned institutional collections, such as the British Museum, the Kunstmuseum Bonn and the Rachofsky House in Dallas. The artist currently lives and works in West Cornwall.


    ‘Payback or Pleasure? Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts Unravels the Female Gaze’,, 17 August 2020, online.

    ii Chloë Ashby, ‘Self Examination: Face to Face with Painter Sarah Ball,, 27 January 2022, online.

    iii ‘Payback or Pleasure? Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts Unravels the Female Gaze’,, 17 August 2020, online.

    • Provenance

      Anima Mundi, St Ives
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2019

    • Exhibited

      St Ives, Anima Mundi, Sarah Ball, 'Themself', 26 July - 6 September 2019, n.p. (illustrated)



signed and dated 'Sarah Ball 2019' on the reverse
oil on canvas
91.5 x 91.6 cm (36 x 36 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

£30,000 - 50,000 ‡♠

Sold for £65,520

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Gibbs
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now
+44 20 7901 7993


New Now

London Auction 8 December 2022