July 26 to September 5 in the Garden Room Gallery

Closing reception: Friday August 31, 18.00 to 19.30

Abstract paintings by ArtsLab Director Sara Downham-Lotto made with, for and about music.

Sara says:

What music can do is reinforce peoples’ belief in themselves.
It reinforces peoples’ hope in something bigger than themselves.
If they have that hope, they might work a little harder to solve some of the problems.’

                                                                                                                 Joyce DiDonato 2016

It’s important for my art to engage audiences in ways that take them away from the ordinary and every day. Shining a light on hope and difference, simple beauty is one way of making this connection. My approach is direct, honest and accessible. Through a personally evolved technique using collage and recycled paintings and focusing on colour and pattern, I try to create something fun, new and intriguing in each work.

Having had an early training in classical music in the eighties (French horn with Julian Baker of the RCM and Royal Opera) and subsequently studied Fine Art, my practice has always had a deep connection with music. Not only is there this recognition of shared values of the arts in instilling something of the transcendental. But more specifically, and very basically, the language is the same. If my paintings don’t carefully consider nuance, contrast, rhythm and soul, then they have failed, just as listening to a piece of music or watching a film which does too much of one and not enough of the other would be boring.

The paintings in this exhibition all have a direct connection with music: intuitively responding to a Bach fugue or a Mahler symphony; incorporating in text what a musician might have written or said about his practice; sharing some of the formal values of what makes a good piece of work for both eyes and ears. My process is free and intuitive, starting quickly and becoming increasingly slow and deliberate as the piece comes closer to completion. I am entirely at home deconstructing, cutting up, scratching into and painting over in order to reconstruct and build back up to a harmonious whole.


About Sara

I’ve been living in South Devon now for 15 years, juggling parenting 3 children with running workshops and collaborative projects as well as continuing my painting practice.    Before Devon, I lived and worked in a number of places around the UK and abroad. As far back as the 1980s, I studied Fine Art in London and Manchester and completed an MPhil in Art History at Glasgow University. A turning point in my practice came between 1988 and 1991 when I was based in Poland. Awarded a Birtish Council / Polish Government post graduate scholarship, the old school style of Gdańsk Art Academy, confirmed my resolve to work experimentally with giant floor collages. Anti establishment, anti trends, I’ve thrived (in hindsite) off being an outsider, responsive to new places and people. Teaching in Art Schools from Estonia to Canada, Chile to Russia, Australia to the UK, it’s no wonder that landing in Dartington feels right for my next leg.


About Arts Lab

In 2016 I set up Arts Lab at Dartington. This has been an opportunity to consolidate 30 years’ arts facilitation with broad ranging groups, tying it in with my and other artists’ practice. Based at Studio 20, Dartington Space, Arts Lab is an artist-run social enterprise for artists and the community to develop new ways of creative doing and thinking that affect positive change. Lessons from this project have taught me the direct impact engagement in the arts can have on people and artists alike, over and above what Joyce DiDonato so eloquently suggests.  It’s about a belief in something bigger than ourselves, but also about connecting, talking, making and laughing at a time when we’ve never needed it so badly.

For more information about location and hours go to:  gardenroomgallery.com

Header image:  Music Illuminates (detail)