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Interview: Artist Annya Sand's 'The Daydreaming' at The Smallest Gallery In Soho

Image credit: 'The Daydreaming' by Annya Sand at The Smallest Gallery in Soho

As the seasons pass The Smallest Gallery in Soho (TSGIS) continues to host artists’ incumbent fixations, and this spring Soho’s public are visited by Annya Sand’s spellbinding, large-scale reveries; a canyoned and geographical paint work of lamellar memories.

Specialising in large-scale abstractions in thick, texturised and impressioned oil paint, Annya Sand is an artist who has received esteem for her acutely meditative, contemporary paintings.

Annya describes the relationship to her painting as ‘automatic’ — ostensibly, entrusting much of her dialogue with canvases to the unconscious mind. As a third generation artist there is a distinct sense of serendipity that her fluency is beyond technical, invoking a familial spirituality. Speaking with Annya, her description of mark-making almost seems disembodied, methodological but quintessentially intuitive — whereby Annya transmutes her experiences, the events or images fertilised into unconscious memory into a language of abstraction. The work also invites non-linearity into the timeline of their creation, with Annya choosing to return to pieces months later, to ensure their “proper and final manifestation”.

Painting the gallery walls — and between them: free-standing or suspended canvases — the installation involves Sand from its very outset, manifesting around herself a floor-to-ceiling piece affixed across multiple planes, until she regards it as complete. Embossed from the walls and centrepiece, the canvasses behave almost as fragments; adjacent memories fractalized from the first.

The paint’s migration between canvas borders and gallery surfaces is a continuation of the unique relationship between TSGIS and artists, who together generate site-specific and spatially responsive works to both venue and Soho’s ecosystem — where social codes of viewing art are reinterpreted, and audiences are anything but mediated. (It is also notable that during a pandemic, the event of painting behind glass publicly takes on a double meaning: viewers are privy to watch an intimately expressive event, while engaging in a protective act.)

Annya often works nocturnally, tapping into a unique modality of the body, and metaphysics of the night. And much like abstraction, the night’s liminality brings with it a sense of knowing and unknowing; freedom with focus. As viewers, perhaps the metaphysics of abstracted art is also the perfect container for everything just beyond our knowing; a dialogue with the self which happens unconsciously, and yet, is palpably nourishing.

For many, the more we wonder what we’re looking at and why, the more whole we feel, and the less we can look away.

Image credit: 'The Daydreaming' by Annya Sand at The Smallest Gallery in Soho

Anastasia Niedinger: What are your most common source materials or subjects when starting a new piece?

Annya Sand:
When I start a project, I tend to get a particular image inspired by something I have seen, events in my life or just an idea in my head that screams a need to express itself on my canvas – and I cannot rest until I engage with it!

My work tends to develop around that image through lines and colours, but the process of creation itself excites me the most. When it comes to my work, I enjoy the transformative development, making shapes come together before me, and watching them evolve.

Anastasia: You’re a third-generation artist in your family. Can you speak to what you’ve inherited from your father and your grandfather — what inheritance of the artistic spirit feels like? And your evolution as an artist on your own path?

I have been lucky enough to grow up surrounded by very talented people in my family, and it has undeniably influenced my career in a genuinely life-shaping way.

I feel as If I have inherited a deep creative spirit from both my father and grandfather. Art is part of my DNA, and growing up in the kind of home I was lucky enough to come from, I have enjoyed a profound appreciation for art, craft and culture – which is an intrinsic part of the fabric of my family.

My evolution as an artist has been a meditative process, much like my upcoming showcase at the TSGIS, where energies have moved me in various directions to comprise the multi-media artist I have grown to enjoy.

Anastasia: At this stage of your painting career, you have preferred to work in an abstract capacity, working very tactfully with oil paints on the canvas. When it comes to mark-making and placement of colour, do you already see a piece in its abstracted and finished form before you begin, or does intuition play a large role in your methodology while creating?

: I was trained and have practised under a classical art tradition. What does that mean? Essentially, it informs the way I paint and draw and has become my go-to place when I start, which makes me divide a canvas in my head from the word go. The architectural pieces encompass a lot of geometry, where the abstract compositions give way to a lot of freedom.

Having said that, even when I am almost finished with a more abstract piece, I still need to ensure the geometry is aligned and correct - it has become an inbuilt instinct of mine!

I’m a perfectionist, and I feel compelled to guarantee a flawless composition. This involves revisiting a completed work months later to ensure its proper and final manifestation.

Anastasia: What does abstraction mean to you and where do you draw the line between abstraction and representation?


My work tends to develop around a specific image, as I have mentioned through lines and colours.

Every single work of mine is a meditative art process where I hold the conversation with that one canvas at that specific moment. I add new futures onto the canvas, and I wait for what the canvas will show me in return. I can only describe it as some kind of visual dialogue with myself and the canvas, which can get very intense and almost obsessive.

The process of creation itself is what excites me the most. I enjoy the transformative development – making shapes come together before me and watching them evolve.

Anastasia: You've spoken of the relationship between art and politics as a major interest and driving force. How would you describe the interplay between art and politics? Can you describe the linear pathway between a painting’ and its wider impact, perhaps on the social collective?

My work used to be very informative and almost apparent in its political and social views. Now it is increasingly more subtle, but every artwork of mine expresses how political and life events affect the spirit; they are an external expression of internal dialogues. We feel, or we think we think something, but we don’t know why or what exactly that is.

Anastasia: You will be working inside the gallery to form a living production of art, which will evolve and transcend both canvas borders and the gallery’s surfaces. Can you describe your relationship to installation, and the unique significance of this one to you and TSGIS?

Although my craft allows me to work from anywhere, I need the correct settings for my creativity to come alive, and I usually work during the night when the world is asleep, and there is calm and tranquil energy around me.

My work concerns itself with process and meditation, and the recent pandemic-inspired lockdown has forced my craft to find focus, bereft of excessive distractions.

My motto is 'If you can't go outside, go inside' - I have used this past year as a form of therapy which has allowed me to use my artistic craft as therapy and use it for what I believe Abstraction is meant to be – an exploration of the self.

Having said that, as we move into a new era, post-lockdown, I am excited to embrace the unique environment of TSGIS as my canvas and Dean Street – and a historic London – as my inspiration.

Anastasia: Your pieces have been displayed in a number of prestigious gallery venues with traditional spatial and social codes of viewing artwork. The Daydreaming, and you inside it as its author, will be spectated through the gallery’s window front by Soho’s public ecosystem. Can you speak about the different kinds of intimacy achieved when spectators view a finished piece of work, versus a work as it evolves? And when the audience is not mediated, but spontaneous?

I believe that the display at TSGIS is truly an intimate invitation into the inner world of me as an artist and provides viewers with the chance to witness a process usually occurring in a private studio.

After a year troubled by disconnect and isolation, I want to bring an experiment that aims to connect and reunite whilst celebrating the magic of the artistic process.

I believe the chemistry and the interplay between myself and the viewer will inspire dialogue and connectivity.

Annya Sand: 'The Daydreaming'
The Smallest Gallery in Soho

62 Dean Street, Soho, London, W1D 4QF
April - June 2021

Annya Sand | | Instagram | Twitter

'The Daydreaming' was curated by Philip Levine and Andreia Costa.

About the Curators:
Philip Levine
Philip has been working in the creative and cultural industries for the last decade as a producer. This has ranged from exhibitions, events, publishing, talks and creating his own unique artwork under the title ‘Headism’. He has gained a MA in Culture, Policy and Management at City, University of London. Being from London, his passion is knowing ‘who and what’ is up and coming in cultural trends and being involved within them. Read the Run-Riot interview with Philip Levine, here.
Andreia Costa
Andreia is an Associate Architect at Jamie Fobert Architects. She studied in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Porto and practiced for 3 years in her native Portugal. Before moving to the UK Andreia decided to explore her contemporary art interest by working in Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art as an architecture and art lecturer. In 2010 she joined Jamie Fobert Architects, where she has been involved in several projects including Selfridges and Tate exhibitions.

Image credit: 'The Daydreaming' by Annya Sand at The Smallest Gallery in Soho


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