Painting Paintings as a Painter

Sara Chess

August 24 – November 16, 2022

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Flynn Fine Art is proud to present Painting Paintings as a Painter, Sara Chess’ debut public exhibition of work. This exhibition features a group of gouaches representing a return to form for Chess following a long hiatus from her studio. Chess trained as a painter (SAIC, 2009), but pursued a career in fashion, eventually opening her own consignment store, Chess & the Sphinx, in 2014. Around that same time a combustion of personal events forced her to put down her brush, and she began creating sporadically and primarily as a means of catharsis.

Now eight-years later, she has completed a first series of portraits depicting young women in seemingly liminal states. The women in these gouaches are all in their late-twenties and early-thirties. They sit at kitchen tables lost in thought; recline with their dog or child on luxury sofas; and stand in their living rooms with breasts bared. They gaze off into the distance, confront the viewer or throw a little side-eye. Though staged, the works have an air of candidness both in their subject and execution. When discussing this new series Chess shies away from resolution, saying, “I believe that art has a delicate and somewhat messy relationship to being defined.” Preferring viewers to draw their own conclusions based on her chosen subject matter, she expands, “Ambiguity is a means of asserting a kind of freedom for myself and revealing the hidden abstracts that construct an image.”

While Chess’ simple portraits tend to express and dredge up convoluted whirls of emotion, her interest with these works is less in conveying an idea or feeling than it is in the formal aspects of making and viewing art objects. The works’ painterliness and the color tests intentionally left along the edge of some help to underline this interest. Resting on one of the first principles of creating—the relationship of form, color and composition—Chess allows viewers to pursue their own subtle, idiosyncratic feedback loop of associated experiences. This nuanced shift of subject from that which is depicted in an image to the process of creating an image and a viewer’s process of internalizing that image reveals Chess’ actual undertaking. After eight years away, Chess is reflecting on her process of making, and what it means to embody the nebulous role of the artist. This pursuit at the heart of Painting Paintings as a Painter brings to mind an old idea that art is primarily about the development of consciousness, not the development of an object; that the object is just a catalyst.


Sara Chess (American, b. 1987) trained with painter Julia Eisen-Lester and graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She opened Chess and the Sphinx, a boutique vintage clothing store, in 2014 after a career in fashion merchandising. Over the past decade she has maintained a private studio practice with paintings that explore, relive, and allegorically relate her relationships with those closest to her. Sara views each work as a personal vignette where characters act out psychological subtexts and tensions. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

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