The apparent casualness of Margot Sanders’ painting In Fine Company belies the grandeur of her artistic influences.
Taking Courbet’s vast depiction of a mourning crowd, A Burial at Ornans, as well as Byzantine mosaics from Ravenna, as her starting points, Sanders’ work imbues the intimacy and informality of the painted sketch with the solemnity and classical formality of art of the past. Sanders’ conventional practice – a sitter, usually a friend or “possible crush” would sit in her bedroom with her while she painted them – gives her work its feeling of tender proximity; diverting from the domestic, In Fine Company presents a line-up of invented characters in an imagined school gym or ballet studio setting. That eye for the person seen at close hand is retained, though. Uncomfortable poses – hair being curled back over an ear, an awkward bunching of hands – gives the figures their sense of self-consciousness; these are characters that seem unwilling to be looked at, restlessly shifting their weight under the artist’s gaze. Sanders has said that another, less rarefied influence on this work is wedding photography, and that air of discomfort, of enforced jollity, is certainly captured here, but the airy and delicate palette suggests something more: the frail beauty of human bonds.

Text by Ben Street

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