For centuries, painters have captured the so-called “essence of things” through their work. They can document the world around them in meticulous detail, and suggest the slightest of feelings through a flick of a brush stroke. Sara Ludy, a digital artist from a rural part of northern Virginia, sees herself as an extension of a painter in many ways. But instead of using a canvas, her works take place in a virtual context, investigating the world we live in today.
Like a painter, “I create layers upon layers,” Sara tells It’s Nice That. “But instead of paint, I use software.” As a youngster she watched Bob Ross’ The Joy of Paintings obsessively, every Saturday morning for years. “He turned me into a painter when I was 11-years-old,” continues Sara, who went onto the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to study painting as a result. She soon found herself drawn to the interdisciplinary new media course however, and though painting has remained an absorbing influence on her practice over the past 20 years, the digital artist has crafted a distinct body of work that weaves between the ancient and the futuristic, as well as her innermost experiences and the collective unconscious.
Early on her career, she started making digital paintings as a convenience more than anything. Making use of her laptop as a “portable and lightweight studio,” that’s available at any time and place, the medium started to open up new possibilities to Sara. “The more I made digital paintings, the more I began to consider the language and the parallels to the process of painting,” she says on the matter. “Not so much like: ‘here’s a digital bush that simulates a real brush’, that’s easy. But more in the process of how to engage with the (im)materiality, how to reflect on the space between you, and the what you’re creating.”
Exploring this metaphysical relationship between oil and digital painting, Sara’s work is a contemplative hybrid of the two spaces. As well as her static paintings, the artist has created a series of animated paintings over the past eight years under the series titled Clouds. Originally inspired by the idea of the sublime, founded in paintings from the Romantic era, the series has since expanded into other trajectories including immersive VR environments.
For the past three years, Sara’s focus has centred on painting and building a VR environment called the Aviary. “I consider it to be a studio/sandbox, sanctuary and extension of my apartment,” the artist explains. “It’s a ‘living environment’, something that will continue to expand overtime, indefinitely,” Sara says on the 30 in-progress environments currently in existence.
The experimental work is, in part, a result of Sara’s research into navigating and unhinging rigidity. She cites Gordon Matta-Clark’s Building Cuts as an original interpretation of this subject, and in a similar way, hopes to “push through things, create new formats and explore the other side of things.” Visualising such abstract displacement is no mean feat, but for Sara, attempting to create work in between this liminal space of the familiar and unfamiliar acts as a reminder that “there is still magic in the aspects of ourselves that we haven’t even begun to tap into.” The artist goes on to conclude: “I believe the more we authentically tune into the fundamental aspects of being, we can learn to be kinder to ourselves, to each other, to other living beings, and to earth.”
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