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Artist Name

Sarah Needham

Born: 1965

Hometown: Fordingbridge

Based in: London, UK

An artist concerned with human inter-connectedness, and the interplay between the personal and the universal as expressed through the material of pigment.
"Sarah Needham is an artist and academic interested in unearthing hidden histories of humanity, taking into her conceptual sway the likes of piracy, the colonial slave trade and the witch hunts of the 17th century. She does this via a painstaking archeological extrapolation and finessing of pigments from the earth, which she then employs to create abstract Rothko-esque canvases that seem to invite the viewer into contemplation of the infinite. Her practice hinges very much upon the notion that the very material she uses to create her art carries meaning in-and-of-itself – with pigments broken down by pestle and mortar that have their roots in the political and social upheavals of history. The key postulation being that the critical deconstruction of the material history of very ordinary things, such as plates and crockery, can give us all access to a common universality of being. In fact, all of the hues present in her works tell stories of the geological history of the earth and the overlooked everyday human interactions that shape our history."

John Paul Pryor, Secrets and Lies:The Artist Sarah Needham on abstracting hidden histories into profound emotional encounters, Culture Collective Journal, 31.3.23

Artist’s Statement
I start with the way in which pigments leave material colour across human history and geography leaving traces of our interactions. The projects chosen have resonance with the now. The form of the work is abstract spaces to fall into. I make oil paints by hand from the relevant pigments.

Each collection has a historic or geographic specificity: I have visited the 20,000-year-old cave paintings in Pech Merle and learned about the material traceability of ochres and that a prehistoric artist might have travelled long distances: Researching the British Library archive I found the historical spread of cobalt-based glass and glazes through archaeological finds, which illustrated the expanse of cultural exchange during classical and pre-classical times. Researching the pigments listed in the Bristol Library’s Presentiment Papers (1770 Jan-June), I found evidence of transatlantic indigo just like St Katharine’s (see below), but also of madder, ochre and verdigris in a little pocket of peaceful trade between the European wars. I looked through The Admiralty papers at the National Archive, to find pigments in ships captured by privateers during the Anglo-Dutch Wars. Inspired by Turner’s Slave ship I have researched the pigments imported into St Katharine docks at the time of the abolitionist movement, and found indigo, a slave trade product, making it a colour of exploitation as well as beauty: I have looked at the evidence of Turner’s palette at the Tate, for the new pigments, at the turning point from a predominantly Colonial and alchemical to an industrial and scientifically based society. Always looking in these points of change for relevant echoes of our current flux.

The form my work takes is abstract spaces, spaces to fall into to get lost and to remember. I owe a debt to twentieth Century artists for the freedom to play in these colour fields, to Rothko and Frankenthaler, to Kandinsky, to Sonia Delaunay and breakthroughs with colour as substance. But also to the unnamed Church painters of the Middle ages for whom pigments had their own symbolism. Technically the medieval dislike of palette mixing, which was a question of material interference, echoed for me in retaining the integrity of a pigment for the story which it holds. And to the developments of oil painting by the Northern Renaissance artists and into the Southern Renaissance, and the technical traditions of glazing which allow me to layer and lends me an understanding of paint as a suspension of pigments that can be layered like strata.

My understanding and expression come through the exploration of these colour traces of our thought and history and the way in which the material holds its own story.

Manchester Art Fair, 17-19 November
Through The Looking Glass, the Mall Galleries London Juried show by Swanfall 28Aug-3 July
Open Studios: 1-2 July
Urban Art Fair, London: 8-9 July
​Residency Talk, Pasture Project Space Residency 23 July
The Other Art Fair Chicago April2023
The Other Art Fair, London March 23
Silson contemporary Autumn/Winter Show end Jan 2021
Residency at the Pasture Project Space, Suffolk Feb 23
Thomas Spencer Fine Art, Bath by invitation only,


Broomhill Estate, Devon, ongoing group exhibition 22-23
The Other Art Fair, Los Angeles, Nov 22
The Other Art Fair, Brick Lane London, 17-20th March
Connect Art Fair with Thomas Spencer Fine Art at the Mall Galleries London, 23-27 March
Colour in Abstraction, The Art Buyer Gallery, Thames Ditton, 2022
Silson Contemporary Autumn /Winter Show, Harrogate, Yorkshire
The Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair with Thomas Spencer Fine Art , London January 25-30

Winter Art and Antiques Fair, Olympia: Thomas Spencer Fine Art 21
​Solo Exhibition of work at Vintners Place, selected by Eleni Polycarpou 2021
Letters From a Strange Year Blue exhibition, online
The Other Art Fair, London October 21
Bath Decorative Antiques Fair: Thomas Spencer Fine Art 21
​The Decorative Arts and Antiques Fair Thomas Spencer Fine Art,Lond
Summer Exhibition at Silson Contemporary, Harrogate 2021
The Other Side at Irving Contemporary,, Oxford, 2021
The Affordable Art Fair with the Kahn Gallery, Battersea, 2021
Letters From a Strange Year Pop up 1,London E2, 26-29 April. 2021
​Sarah Needham Solo, curated by June Frickleton, 1 Kings Hill and Control Tower Gallery, group show Kings Hill, Kent Feb-May 22

Letters From a Strange Year, a joint artist project with Paul Anderson Morrow launching online with an e-salon on Thursday, Jan 21 at 7 pm, and a virtual exhibition, real-world exhibitions and venues with dates to be announced dates to be announced

The Other Art Fair, The Truman Brewery, London October 8-11 2020- Cancelled
Autumn Show, Silson Contemporary Art Gallery, Harrogate, October-Jan 2021
Water | Land, Irving Contemporary Art, Oxford, 15 Nov 20 - Jan21
Artist Walks, 4a Sutton Road, N10 1HE, 14Nov-14Dec20, community Art Project responding to the lockdown exhibiting in domestic windows across North London.
Summer Show, Gallery Artists, Silson Contemporary Art Gallery Summer show August-September 2020Unframed Highgate Contemporary Unframed online show May 2020
V-Art.Show Online open studios April/May /June editions 2020
​Art on a Postcard with Highgate Contemporary Art in aid of Feed NHS sold-out April 2020
Beyond Other Horizons: Contemporary paintings made in Britain and Romania, Iasi Palace of Culture, Iasi Romania. 1st- 31st March 2020. The exhibition will open on 3rd March 2020 with a British Council Symposium. Funded by the British Council, curated by Anna McNay, Peter Harrap and Florin Ungurianu
Mid-Winter Show, Silson Contemporary Art Gallery, Harrogate, Yorkshire, Mid Jan-April 2020 Moved online

Late 2019
Makers and Craftsmen Project, curated interior by Bergman and Mar, Chiswick to winter 20
Kahn Gallery at the Affordable Art Fair, Hamburg 14-17 November 2019
Luminaire Arts Gallery, Beyond Abstracts, 7 Denbigh St London SW1V 2HF Nov-Dec 2019

Recent Competitions and Juried Shows

2023 Through The Looking Glass, The Mall Galleries, Selected by Swanfall
2019 Makers and Craftsmen, Curated by Bergman and Mar,
2018 The Black Swan Open selected by Johnny Messum, of Messums Wiltshire, Michael Eaves of Glastonbury Festival, Steve Burden Artist, Debbie Hilliyard of Hauser and Wirth, Sue Conrad Artist
2018 Long listed for the Secret Art Prize selected by gallerist Eleni Duke
2017 Creekside Open- selected by Jordan Baseman senior tutor at The Royal College of Art

Collections: Held in private collections in the UK, Switzerland, France, Australia, USA, the Middle East and Japan

Graduated with a degree in Fine Art and Education from Hatfield Polytechnic 1989, a Masters Degree in Development Studies from South Bank University1994 and studied traditional Chinese Sumi-e ink painting under Prof Ding in Jiangxi China 2015-7

Previous Exhibitions/Fairs
The Other Art Fair, Brooklyn, New York Nov 2019
Corby Glenn Project, Exhibition at Willoughby Gallery, Corby Glenn Sept-Oct 2019
The Affordable Art Fair, Kahn Gallery, Battersea, London October 2019
Curious Duke Gallery, Mixed Show, Whitecross Street London EC1, June 2019
Open Studios, EFO Open Art Houses, Sutton Road Muswell Hill, London, 29-30 June 1-2Jul
The Other Art Fair London, Truman Brewery March 2019
Curious Duke Gallery, Winter show London December-Jan 2018-19
The Black Swan Open PV 18 October exhib19 Oct 24 Nov
Black Swan Arts, 2 Bridge Street, Frome BA11 1BB
Roys People Art Fair, Oxo Tower Wharf, London, UK November 1-4 2018
The Other Art Fair Brooklyn, New York USA November 7-11 2018
SFSA Painting, No Format Gallery/Deptford Does Art, Deptford London December 2018
Highgate Contemporary Art Gallery, Mixed Painting, Highgate High St, London 2018
The Other Art Fair London Victoria House London WC1 4-7 October 2018
Free Painters and Sculptors at the Muse Gallery October 2-7 269 Portobello Road, W11 1LR
The Curious Duke Gallery Summer Exhibition: White Cross Street, London EC1Y2018
The Other Art Fair, Bristol, 26-29 July 2018
The London Open 2018, ICI on digital display on screen at the Whitechapel Gallery June-September 2018
East Finchley Open Artist’s Houses June 30 - July 1 and July 7- 8 2018
Roy’s People Art Fair, Barge House Oxo Tower Wharf, 12-15 April 2018
Ideal Home Show- London, Why Not Art stand - digital display and catalogue 17.3-2.4.18
Trace Elements, Deptford Does Art Gallery, Deptford High St, London 8-28 Feb 2018
Private view 8.2.18 7-11
In conversation with Sarah Needham, Paul Anderson Morrow and Matthew Gould, hosted by Rosalind Davis 24.2.18 7 pm
Tower 42, Old Broad Street, London EC2N 1HQ. Jan - April 2018
SFSA Painting Open 17, No Format Gallery, 7-18 December 2017
Roy's People Art Fair, Islington, London14-17th September 2017
Creekside Open 2017 selected by Jordan Baseman, APT Gallery May 2017
Art Fair Malaga, Palacio de Ferias y Congresses de Malaga, Malaga 2017: Exhibited digitally.
Small Experiments in Colour, Queen's Wood Cafe, Highgate June 2017
The Talented Artist Fair, Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QR (Whitechapel tube)
​17/18/19 March 2017
The Thames: The ARTery of London, Curator: Angus Pryor, St Katharine Docks Dec2016
​Sugar And Spice, Devon House, St Katherine Docks: Curator: Angus Pryor Aug- Sept2016
Both Ends Of Madness, Sassoon Gallery Folkestone. Curator: Angus Prior 22 July 2016
Nautical Perspectives, St Katherine Docks, curated by Angus Pryor May 2016
Whenever I feel Blue I Start Breathing, Earl's Court Project Rooms, June -July 2016
Open Studios: Open Art Spaces, Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea June-July 2016
Open studios: Kensington and Fulham Open Art Spaces, Pocket Arts 2015
Place and Proximity, Austin Forum, Hammersmith, Pocket Arts 2015
Refuse Reuse, Kensington, Pocket Arts 2015
Microtopia, Kingsgate Workshops, West Hampstead 2014
Microtopia, Kingsgate Workshops, West Hampstead 2013


Sarah Needham In The Studio

I start with the way in which pigments leave material colour across human history and geography, forming traces of our interactions. I make oil paints by hand from pigments researched for their role in human visual culture. My understanding and expression arise through the exploration of these colour traces of our thought and history, and the way in which the material holds its own story.

main image

More About Sarah Needham

Question IconWhat inspires you?

I am inspired by the colour traces left across history and geography by pigments leaving traces of our human interconnectedness and exchange.

Question IconDescribe your creative process.

Based on research into the history of pigment in human material culture, I borrow from both Eatern and Western traditions. A day in the studio starts with hand making paints, sometimes from preprepared pigments, and sometimes from scratch, the pigment is ground onto oil, before a period of reflection, and then applied in thin glazes to the surface building up tonal areas. On the best days I enter a state of flow where the process, body and mind are at one in the making channeling the energy of the work.

Question IconWhat are 3 words that best describe your work?

Researched, abstract, balanced

Question IconWho are some artists that have influenced your work?

Prof Ding, Marc Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, JWTurner, Takesada Matsutani, Matisse and more

Question IconWhat is the most important tool when creating your work?

a broad flat ended paintbrush

Question IconWhat is the best piece of advice you have been given?


Question IconWhere do you go for inspiration?

Day to day life mediated through historical research into human history as it relates to present events, and the pigments that play through historical events

Collections Featuring Sarah Needham

4 Collections

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University of Edinburgh

United Kingdom, 1999

Private student, Ding Laoshi, Jiangxi Normal University

China, 1997

South Bank University

United Kingdom, 1994

Hatfield Polytechnic

United Kingdom, 1989


Selected:ThroughThe Looking Glass, The Mall Galleries London


The Makers and Craftsmen, Bergman and Mar


Selected: Black Swan Open, Frome UK


Creekside Open selected by Jordan Baseman



Urban Art fair, Brixton

United Kingdom, 2023

Mixed gallery show, Thomas Spencer Fine Art

United Kingdom, 2023

The Other Art Fair, London

United Kingdom, 2023

The Other Art Fair, Chicago

United States of America, 2023

Manchester Art Fair,

United Kingdom, 2023

ThroughThe Looking Glass, The Mall Galleries, London

United Kingdom, 2023

Thomas Spencer Fine Art Stand at The Decorative Arts and Textile Fair, London

United Kingdom, 2022

Sarah Needham solo stand at The Other Art Fair, London

United Kingdom, 2022

Thomas Spencer Fine Art Stand at the Connect Art Fair, the Mall Galleries, London

United Kingdom, 2022

Autumn Winter Show, Silson contemporary Art

United Kingdom, 2022

Winter Art And Antiques Fair, Olympia with Thomas Spencer Fine Art

United Kingdom, 2021

Gallery Artist Summer Show, Kahn Gallery

United Kingdom, 2021

Sarah Needham, Solo, 1 Tower View

United Kingdom, 2021

Summer Exhibition, Silson Contemporary

United Kingdom, 2021

The Other Side, Irving Contemporary Oxford,

United Kingdom, 2021

The Other Art Fair, London

United Kingdom, 2021

SFSA Open Painters

United Kingdom, 2021

Open Studios, EFOA Open Art House, London

United Kingdom, 2021

Sarah Needham at Vintners Place, London

United Kingdom, 2021

The Decorative Antiques and Textile Fair, Battersea, with Thomas Spencer Fine Art

United Kingdom, 2021

Bath Decorative Antiques Fair with Thomas Spencer Fine Art

United Kingdom, 2021

Beyond Other Horizons, Iasi Palace of Culture

Romania, 2020

Summer Show, Silson Contemporary

United Kingdom, 2020

Autumn Winter Show, Silson Contemporary

United Kingdom, 2020

Water Lands, Irving Contemporary

United Kingdom, 2020

The Other Art Fair, New York

United States of America, 2019

The Affordable Art Fair, Hamburg, with the Kahn Gallery

Germany, 2019


Letters From a Strange Year, Artists Conversations, ISBN 9-781527-283657


Beyond Other Horizons, Exhibition Catalogue ISBN 987-696-8547-43-5