Since her debut exhibition with Barnard Gallery in 2015, Sarah Biggs has maintained an on-going fascination with the relationship between the human subject and the natural world, with each new body of work seeing a new evolution, expansion, or reimagining of this relationship, this inter-dependence. 2015’s Further Afieldpresented small figures overwhelmed by vast landscapes in order to explore the dynamic relationship field researchers have to the land they survey, finding a wry humour in the way these figures seek to measure the immeasurable, in the unavoidable intrusion of subjectivity into objective pursuits. 2017’s Waiting for Rain zoomed in on these figures and expanded the contemplation of this subjectivity, presenting closer portraits of scientists and field researchers, observing the tenderness as well as the uncertainty involved in their search for meaning. Biggs’ new body of work, Gathering Dust, pushes even further into that subjectivity, inviting the viewer not to observe others searching, but to embody the search themselves. The exhibition represents a daring shift from observation to immersion, from macro to micro, from knowing to feeling.
By moving away from depicting small figures in a vast landscape, Biggs calls on the viewer to become the subject, positioning them in amongst the brush, overwhelmed by swathes of colour that blur and dance in the periphery. And with this immersion comes the necessary loss of perspective, of boundaries, of direction. Biggs’ push deeper into abstraction in these new works further enables this shift in experience: spaces are not clearly defined but rather actively sit on the edge between delineated landscape and abstracted colour field, capturing the constantly shifting nature of the outside world as one traverses through it. Biggs thus activates the act of looking, of searching and measuring that she had depicted from afar in previous work, visually capturing the ambiguity and loss of structure involved in this shift, charged with a sense of immediacy and sensorial immersion.
Indeed, Gathering Dust seeks to expand the sensorium beyond just the visual to further emphasise the embodied experience. Biggs seeks to find ways to reimagine touch, smell, and sound in visual representation. Her abstract marks serve not only as suggestions of tangible objects – leaves, flowers, mountains – but simultaneously as markers of the non-visual, of the ways in which sound, touch and smell are woven into our experience of natural spaces, and into our subjective associations with these spaces. Even when Biggs does venture into more figurative portraits, her figures are always immersed in sensorial experience, entirely preoccupied by their surroundings, still seemingly searching for meaning, or for a path through unknown territory. Throughout, Gathering Dust is charged with a tension of the in-between which tangibly captures this search, this ambiguity – in between abstraction and figuration, between vast scale and micro details, between the visual and the non-visual. We, the viewers, have become the figures in the field, no longer looking on from afar, and Biggs invites us to welcome the sense of unknowing, of searching, of seeking involved in any pursuit into the wilderness.