'Antidote' / Elise Sawell

'Antidote' / Elise Sawell

“I know that almost all artists use their work as a means of self-expression and representation of the inner workings of the mind, but for me, my work is also my therapy. It seems to be the only way I can communicate how I feel or experience everyday life in a world that seems almost upside-down. I like to create art how it feels right to me- kind of like a brain dump- merging my thoughts, feelings and memories into one physical form.” 


Like a countermeasure for the habitual psychological repression of daily life, Elise Sawell’s paintings are a vivid, textural outpour of surfaced impressions, anxieties and emotions.

Confessional and emotive, her works are reminiscent of both the neo-expressionist scrawl of Jean-Michel Basquiat and the raw, tortured portraits of Francis Bacon. Blurred, impressionistic painted figures are cross-cut by harsh lines, splinters of printed images and fragmented text and symbols. Colour is a unifying force, reconciling paint, pen and print into a single impression. The result is liberatingly confessional, an explosive emotional release similar to confiding a shameful secret to a friend, taking a trip to the psychoanalyst, or having a good cry.  

The richly layered chaos of the mixed medium approach is a testament to the overwhelming diversity of psychological experience, where thoughts and details vie for attention, sinking and resurfacing. In one particularly evocative work, impassive faces swimming in sickly pinks and blues rise from disembodied legs, intercepted by the dripping black scrawl of handwritten text: “Stay trapped.” A converse-wearing foot, turned inward, is a postural emblem of discomfort. In the background, fine green lines evoke the distinctive green hand rails of metro trams and trains. Sawell describes the work as the product of the disassociation and panic she associates with public transport, a space of claustrophobic intensity.

Sawell’s works are more than the product of psychological debris (or what she modestly describes as a “brain dump”). They are projections of the psyche into the physical world, forming part of a powerful therapeutic process which enables the viewer to share in the catharsis of the painter.

Follow her on Instagram: paracetaloll


Words: Ronlee Korren

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