Sally Payen

Born in 1964 in Oxford, UK, it was after a light bulb moment as a young person that Payen began painting. At nineteen she moved to Brighton for art school where she became life long friends with her tutor Jack Smith. After receiving her BA, she moved to London to study at the painting school of the RCA. At this time it was housed in the V&A, and her understandings became shaped by modernism and Indian painting. Her research involved hours spent sitting in front of the V&A’s Indian collection. Payen completed a doctorate at Brighton University in 2005 exploring ideas about time, space and embodiment in painting, supervised by Professor Michael Tucker. Today her work remains influenced by the writings of Lyotard and simultaneously has tendrils in eastern philosophies. 

Building on her modernist painting roots, Payen begun to explore the push and pull of democracy in 2005. Her work has been discussed in terms of history painting and its relationship to conflict and more recently embodied action, erasure and exploration of a feminist mark making.  Matt Price explores Payen’s use of the term Mélos to understand her approach to painting in the making of a body of work about Green Common; ’Mélos is both curious and cryptic and stems from Payen’s interpretation of philosopher and theorist Jean-François Lyotard’s use of the word  mélos to describe an aesthetic, poetic, musical – almost religious – experience in the stages before a story has been told and before we can reflect on it’s meanings… For the artist, the process of painting conveys a deep and emotional power that can be felt or understood before knowing or recounting ‘the story’ of Greenham Common. Just as a piece of music without words can capture and convey a profound mood, a moving emotional register, so too can paint’.

From the publication and exhibition ‘The Fence and the Shadow’, 2017, MAC Birmingham.

Recent exhibitions include – The Manchester Contemporary, 2019 Buffer Zones, Paradise Works Manchester, 2019 , P is for Portrait, The Art House, University of Worcester, 2019; Green Hill Gallery Berlin, 2019; Taking Up Space, 2018 Government Art Collection, London: Sluice Art Fair, Berlin 2018;  One Person exhibition with publication ‘The Fence and the Shadow’, Mac Birmingham,  2017, exploring the ex-cold war landscape of Greenham Common, Berkshire and Women Peace Camps of the 1980’s;  One Person exhibition – Wolverhampton Riots, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Museum, 2012. 

Payen’s work is held in many collections including – Government Art Collection, The Towner Collection, Royal College of Art, The John Feeney Collection, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Annabel Birtles Collection, Minerva Collection, Jacob Mendolsolm Collection.