Born in Oxford, UK, Sally began painting after a light bulb moment as she cycled round Greenham Common.  She moved to Brighton for art school and became life long friends with her tutor Jack Smith. Payen attended the painting school of the RCA when it was housed in the V&A  and her understandings became shaped by modernism and Indian painting, sitting in front of the Indian collection in the V&A became a big part of her MA studies. Payen completed a doctorate at Brighton University in 2005 exploring ideas about time, space and embodiment in painting, supervised by Professor Michael Tucker,  she remains influenced in equal parts by the western philosophy of Lyotard and Eastern philosophical views.

Building on her modernist painting roots Payen started to explore the push and pull of democracy from 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.


2005 Practice-based PhD, University of Brighton 
1990 MA Painting Royal College of Arts 
1988 BA hons (1st Class) Painting, Brighton Polytechnic

Solo Shows

2017  The Fence and the Shadow, MAC Birmingham2013 The Chase and the Ambush, Hereford Museum and Art Gallery
2012 Wolverhampton Riots – One Year On’ – Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Museum 
2010 Forever Run, Galleria Gallerati, Rome
2009 Sally Payen- Shingle22, Forte Sangello Art Gallery & Museum Netunno, Rome
2009 Land Grab, Bryant Priest Newman, Birmingham 
2004 Neverendingjourney, Brighton University Gallery
1997 Artist in residence programme, Hastings Museum
1997 Charmed Bodies, Cultures Gallery, Brighton Museum 
1996 Vessel, Gillingham Museum and Art Gallery, Kent

Group Shows

2019 Salt Road, Manchester Contemporary

2019 Buffer Zones, Division of Labour, Paradise Works, Manchester

2019 P is for Portrait, Division of Labour, The Art House, University of Worcester

2019 Lab Rats, Greenhill Gallery, Berlin

2018 Taking up Space, Government Art Collection, London

2015 Random Selection, Division of Labour at Worcester Art Gallery
2015 Salon, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
2015 Manchester Contemporary with Division of Labour, Manchester
2015 Hacking the Archive – projection on Senate House, London
2014/5 Outrider touring to Woolhope Room Hereford, Commandery Worcester, Hive Library Worcester, Winterbourne House and Gardens, Birmingham , Haden Hill House Sandwell
2014/5 West Midlands Open, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
2014 ART14 London, with Division of Labour and Star Gallery China
2013 Small is beautiful, Flowers Gallery London
2013 Open Worcester
2013 Open Ludlow
2012 Society Weeks Worcester City Gallery
2012 Joint Stock Birmingham
2012 ‘John + Sally’ Division of Labour, Malvern, UK
2011 Some Domestic Incident, MAC Birmingham
2011 Prague Biennale 5, expanded painting UK. Microna, Prague.
2011 The Witching Hour, PM gallery and House, London
2010 Grief and Oblivion, Trove, Birmingham
2010 The Witching Hour, Waterhall Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum
2009 PULSE Contemporary Art Fair Miami, Ice Palace. AM group installation, USA
2009 DOK/VIDEO FEST You3B VJ Installation performance artist Kassel Germany 
2009 FREEROTATION Video Art Installation Electronic AV Festival, Hay-On-Wye ,UK
2009 Static3, Franklin House, Hereford Photogrphy Festival
2009 ‘War on War’, Shringle 22J, Biennial of Contemporary art, Rome
2008 Selected artist for Visual, Arts and Business, UK
2008 Open 08 West Midlands, Wolverhampton Art Gallery
2008 Static 2, Borderlines Festival, Warehouse Gallery, Gwynne St, Hereford 
2007 Static, Hereford Photography Festival, installation, BT Madley satellite relay station 
2007 Birmingham Open, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
2006 Borderlines Festival, installation
2005 Untitled, Hereford College of Art
2005 Open, Hereford Museum and Art gallery
2005 Haven, Rotherwas Chapel, English Heritage, Hereford
2004 Neverendingjourney, Brighton Festival
2003 Multi-Media installation, Hereford City Centre multi-site
2001 Open Studios, Red Herring, Phoenix, Brighton
2000 Group show, Brighton Festival
2000 Artists Choice, Flowers East, London
2000 Peterborough Prize, Peterborough Museum and Art gallery
2000 Art Futures, London International Art Fair, London 
2000 South East Arts Collection, Towner Art Gallery Eastbourne
2000 South East Arts Collection, Brighton University Gallery
2000 Contemporary Art Market, CAS, Towner Gallery Eastbourne

1994 South East Arts purchase prize and exhibition, Brighton Museum

2018 The Anomie Review of Contemporary British Painting

2017 The Fence and the Shadow, by Mandy Fowler, Matt Price
2010 The Witching Hour publication by Freya Smaill
2010 Art of Ideas publication, edited by Matt Price
2010 Exhibition text by Matt Price for ‘Grief and Oblivion’, Trove
2010 ACI & Galatea, Roma Associazione Culturale – review ‘Forever Run’
2009 Exhibition text by Elisabetta Civitan for Sally Payen at Forte Sangallo di Nettuno, Rome
2008 ‘The Space between Practice’, Longhouse, Birmingham, UK
2006 MADE, Birmingham, Publication Youth Space, A collaborative youth shelter project connecting young people, architects and artists. 
2006 Longhouse, Birmingham; Publication People, Identity and Place
2001 Academic Anthropology and the Museum edited by Mary Bouquet
2000 Commissioned writer for Body Image – Mid Sussex District Council
1997 Exhibition Charmed Bodies Exhibition text by Professor Michael Tucker

Awards and Grants

2016-17 ACE for The Fence and the Shadow curated by Mandy Fowler

2012 Prize winner, Rome Biennial, Artists against war

2012 Pitt Project Space FlagWorks residency 
2007-2008 Creative Industries mentor award, working with Matt Price on the production of new paintings entitled ‘The Falling’
2002 Research Award, Womens Federation of Education 
1997-2002 PhD Research Award, Brighton University
1996 Purchase Prize for painting South East Arts Award
1988 Jacob Mendolsolm Award for painting
1987 Annabel Birtles Award for painting

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, Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, Hereford Museum and Art Gallery.