Bums, kettlebells and shapeups: Sally Kindberg explores tragicomedy in her exquisitely surreal paintings

Looking to depict common perceptions of “low and high brow culture”, the London-based artist also tells us why her mum is her biggest creative inspiration.

15 March 2022

Whilst Sally Kindberg’s paintings have such a clear and unified style, their subject matter persistently jumps from one distinct object, scene and theme to another. Explaining this diversity of focus, the painter tells us that “restlessness and curiosity” are at its root. This penchant for including stylistic and compositional “contradictions” in her work, Sally tells us is directly inspired by the work of famous surrealists: “can’t you have a little portrait in a still life?” she says, “It makes me think of Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s paintings of fruit and veg portraits. Two in one.”

For us here at It's Nice That, one of the standout elements of Sally's work is her brilliant depictions of bums. Contained in tight and shiny vinyl skirts, Sally seems to perfectly capture their essence; simultaneously displaying a certain confidence whilst also suggesting an element of vulnerability. For the artist, this focus on bums centres around their multiplicity, “they make me laugh”, she begins, but she also observes them to be “so complex”. “They have to work very hard every day to keep us going,” she expands. “There's also something about the fact that you can’t see yourself from behind and you are in a way so blind to your own being. There’s vulnerability there.”


Sally Kindberg: Rise and Shine (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, 2021)

Another means by which Sally creates such distinctive scenes is her interest in perceptions of "high and low brow culture" and notions of the “tragicomic”. Summarising how both of these facets come together in her work, Sally sees them as being rooted in the idea that “our society is so incredibly sophisticated, so complex, yet at the same time it is so ephemeral”. And certainly, this sense of ephemerality comes across perfectly in Sally’s work. Featuring a slightly uncanny mismatch of objects, clothing items and styles that invoke references to both recent and far-gone eras, Sally produces a temporally disorientating, yet deeply intriguing pull throughout her body of work.

Despite always loving drawing as a child, it wasn't until Sally was in her 30s that she decided to fully invest herself into her artwork. Doing her foundation in Finland, where she enjoyed the northern lights, snow and cinnamon buns, Sally moved to London to study art at Goldsmiths, a city she loves for its rich art and culture heritage. Being a big “random” walker, and enjoying to simply observing people going about their business in the city, she also loves London’s vastness, “you can get lost in it everyday... (if you want to)”.

When discussing her biggest creative inspiration, Sally firmly lands on her “very creative mother”. Telling us that she was incredibly resourceful (she was able to turn an old winter coat into a new jacket, a hat and a baby sleeping bag in one go) Sally also explains that she always sought the most out of life; tending to a garden full of huge sunflowers, loving a dinner party, and driving her and Sally around Europe in a salmon pink Saab 900. “She always said YES. What an inspiration. She sadly passed away last year and I miss her so much, but her energy lives inside me.”


Sally Kindberg: Breakfast TV (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, 2021)


Sally Kindberg: Golden Ticket (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, 2021)


Sally Kindberg: Extacy (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, 2021)


Sally Kindberg: Extacy (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, 2021)


Sally Kindberg: Fish Lady (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, 2020)


Sally Kindberg: Liquid Gold (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, 2021)


Sally Kindberg: Fruit Machine (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, 2021)


Sally Kindberg: Dynamite (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, 2021)


Sally Kindberg: The Only Way is Up (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, 2021)


Sally Kindberg: installation image from the exhibition RUSH at DUVE, Berlin (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, image courtesy of Joachim Schulz 2021)

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Sally Kindberg: Monero (Copyright © Sally Kindberg, 2021)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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