15 May 2017

Finding Muses in Unexpected Places

Ellannah Sadkin works with cartoons as her central point of inspiration as for her, they not only represent simpler elements of society but there's the comfort of always having an end result or mystery solved. Her work has developed into an interactive dialogue about the human psyche, unravelling familiar characters as a relatable means to delve into inner emotions, anxiety and sense of purpose. Her pieces range from recognisable characters and deconstructed abstractions, to the reduction of well-known characters to energetic lines and bright colour fields. Ellannah also uses an unexpected muse in the form of brain scans as she's created works that are colourfully reimagined scans of a brain experiencing an anxiety attack. I spoke with Ellannah about why cartoons are so prominent in her work and her own ways to try and find order with an inner world riddled with disorder.

cartoons are such an integral part of the work, what is your favourite cartoon and why?
That’s very difficult but I’d have to say Scooby Doo. I like the gothic horror aspect to it and the idea that there was always a result at the end – they always caught the bad guy. I look at cartooning and feel like cartoons represent simpler elements of society. When you’re growing up, you watch a movie and there’s often something bad but not always a positive result. With cartoons, you see who the bad guys are but in real life, they don’t wear a scary mask and you don’t pull their mask up and say “oh it’s you”. 

I’m in therapy at the moment and we talk a lot about good and bad people, everybody’s on a spectrum with good and bad in them but cartoons are my way of understanding it in a simplified way. It makes you feel better knowing who’s bad and who’s good. I think that’s the main thing that drew me to cartoons – that safety – so as I’ve gotten older and gone through life, it’s very difficult to recognise who I can trust.

with both living and working in the house of art, how has your work changed or evolved during the project?
It’s pushed me to try out different mediums. Instead of just painting, I did sculpture and the residency gave me the space to actually do it and push myself to do something a little bit different. It’s helped me move forward that way and given me ideas to move forward into more soft sculpture work in the future. This is more of an installation than I’ve ever created before so I really want to go down that route.

do you work with an exact end result in mind or is it more of a spur-of-the-moment process?
I don’t have a plan basically, I used to design before I painted and it takes away the spontaneity and I didn’t get as much satisfaction out of it either. If you plan it before you make it, you’re on such a narrow path that it confines you too much, I think. A lot of my work is made by mistake and it ends up being that it’s something I actually really like. 

if you could pick one emotion that you would want someone to look at our work and feel, what would that one emotion be?
My whole show is about anxiety. The main large painting in the Red Bull House of Art show is a brain scan of a brain that has general anxiety disorder as a sufferer of anxiety, I wanted to show that. More of the paintings in that show are about meditation as I’m practising now and I’m trying to work through my issues with my work. 

talk us through your work on show in the house of art…
I have a hanging installation and when the piece hits you, it’s meant to be what it feels like to have anxiety. It’s literally being hit by anxiety. They’re all representations of my inner world with disorder and trying to find order. There’s a lot of colour therapy work going on, there are two pieces from an old series and I was thinking about what it means to pray and how an artist feels when they’re actually making the pieces so I wanted to show what emotions I was going through with the colours while making the pieces. They’re like mind-maps, I was trying to put everything out there but instead of doing it with figures, I wanted to do it with colour and shape.

it’s such a trippy effect
Yeah, it comes pretty trippy, people are constantly saying “how much acid have you done”, no acid, no drugs… don’t need them!

where are you up to next?
I’m going to go over to Miami, I want to do some activism with my work as well as I’m really passionate about the environment and want to share how the reefs are dying. I feel like my style can be used for scientific purpose because although these are brain scans-style, I can apply this to data of coral reefs and ocean bed analysis. My dad was an oceanographer so I kind of want to do that to reconnect with his past as well.