21 juil. 2022

Article in English
Delali Amegah

Although she considers herself an amateur, Sarah Mandres has already a few exhibitions under her belt. After a great success at D’Epicerie, the pop up gallery initiated by Rafael Springer earlier this year, you can find her current exhibitions at Bloom Luxembourg and Metzeschmelz Cueva in Esch-sur-Alzette.

Sarah, what is the story behind your work?

Painting has been part of my life since my childhood. My great grandfather was a Luxembourgish artist and I basically grew up surrounded by art. But as the years went by, my priorities changed because of school and then work. I didn’t find the time to genuinely invest my energy into it, like I used to. Three years ago, I experienced some mental health issues which made me question myself a lot: “What am I doing with my life?”,“I’m thirty years old now, I’m working during the week and going to parties during the weekends, why do I feel like there is something missing?”.

I also wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted children. However, I knew I wanted to give my life some purpose, I just didn’t know in which direction. I shared my frustration with my aunt who then encouraged me to go back to painting because she remembered how it always used to bring me so much joy. 

Back in the days, the whole family used to sit at a table and draw together in notebooks, that was so much fun. When I decided to dedicate myself to painting again, it felt right and natural. I started sharing my progress on social media with family and friends which motivated me as well. My first exhibition was in Bourglinster, right before the pandemic.

How did the pandemic affect your work?

My routine was turned upside down for a bit, as all the exhibitions got cancelled but it allowed me to plan a lot of other projects ahead. I was painting without a vision though, it was a very strange phase. At some point, every artist wants to show their work, to be in the company of others, such as fellow artists and art lovers… and I missed that a lot. However, the isolation phase has definitely helped my artistic journey. It helped me take the time to be more appreciative of what I already achieved and be patient in regards to the ideas and projects I had in mind at the time. It was like a moment of rest and reflection.


© Sarah Mandres

When was your first exhibition?

My first solo exhibition took place at Escher Theater in Esch-sur-Alzette, in July last year. I thought my work wasn’t good enough, I felt a lot of pressure during the process. The day of the opening, I was so stressed that I even told my friends that I’d rather be naked than show my art. But it ended up being such a positive experience, it is a memory that I will forever cherish! Although I grew up in an artistic family, I tend to get nervous when it comes to sharing my work because people can be so judgmental. I’ve just naturally developed this idea that people constantly judge. For me, my art is my safety net, my refuge and the fact that I go out of my little bubble is scary at times.

You call yourself an abstract artist, what does it mean to you?

I don’t paint things that really exist. For example, one of my artworks is a banana coming from the sky and my bananas don’t look like ordinary ones. Also, the techniques I use do not require precision; it is very vague, it comes from my imagination. I am obsessed with painting big eyes and big ears since I was a child as well. Abstract art allows me to be free and flexible with my vision, to just go with the flow.

I’m really inspired by Andy Warhol because his art is crazy and colorful. I also admire Rafael Springer who I met two years ago and whom I consider as a mentor. He gives great advice and offers a lot of opportunities for young artists, such as D’Epicerie pop up gallery a few months ago. I’m so grateful to have been part of this exhibition and that I got the chance to meet other artists.


© Sarah Mandres

Is the artistic community in Luxembourg supportive?

At the beginning it was a bit difficult because I wasn’t sure of myself, my artistic self-esteem (if that is a thing). A few male artists said that my art was some “housewife art” which hurt a lot at the time. Later on, I was able to connect with other artists who were kind and genuine... and also more female artists which made me feel more comfortable. Since my first solo exhibition in Esch, my art account blew up and it keeps expanding, last year was a crazy year in a good way for me! I received a lot of encouragement and support which is nice when you’re just getting started.

How do you handle self-doubt and criticism?

The doubts are part of the challenge. It can feel lonely until you talk with other artists and realise that you share the same struggles at the end of the day, so that’s reassuring. We all go through moments where we feel some level of dissatisfaction with our art, but you learn to embrace it because it is part of the journey. I personally love to experiment, so when I’m not satisfied, I persist until I am.

What is your painting process?

I usually have an image in my mind and I let my intuition do the work. Creating can be such a stressful process which can instigate negative self-talk but, like I said previously, it’s part of the game. Once I am grounded, a painting session can feel like a meditation.


© Sarah Mandres

Are you a full-time painter?

I work as a social worker. My desire was to pursue art studies but my father was against it as he wanted me to pursue studies which would lead to a more secure and stable job and future. I was not thrilled but now I think it was the right decision because I think that a lot of people, who studied art, lost a bit of their creativity. These studies impose many rules to follow, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, I feel like it doesn’t leave much room to express creative freedom, to give the opportunity to make mistakes, and to also not be satisfied with the process.

How do you find the balance between being a social worker and an artist, does your job inspire your art?

It is very intense. But yes, it does because I feel a lot of emotions. My workplace isn’t far away from my studio which is perfect; so when I’m stressed, annoyed or sad I just go there and do my thing. It’s a shared space with 45 other artists, I believe there are also collective studios as well but most of us have our own studio which is really practical, it allowed me to be more focused. Depending on my mood I will listen to different music genres or sometimes just listen to the birds chirping in front of my window, you never know! Hopefully one day this will become my full-time job, although I enjoy my current one and the financial stability it gives me so far. I don’t have the pressure to do anything to please people, I can do my own stuff.  I don’t want to become wealthy but just financially stable and have the freedom to do what I want. To be free in my art and myself. One of the major themes in my art is freedom and non-conformism to societal structures. I wish to inspire others to do what they want, to do what makes them feel something, feel alive. I’m excited for next projects, I will be part of What Water Art, Augenschmaus and an international exhibition later on!

Here, you can find out more about Sarah and her work: