In 2004, having spent seventeen years in New York, Sarah Rapson moved back to England – Dorset, to be precise, where she contemplates the sea each day from the clifftops. And this is how she chooses to live, virtually cut off from the world: "as wise as a Chinese hermit", in the words of Agnes Martin, exiled in New Mexico. "I’ve always had a highly romantic relationship to art," she says, "which goes with my interest in Oriental philosophies. For me, art and life are not dissociable." Fascinated by art’s "consubstantial" character (to borrow a theological concept), and the paradoxical fusion between an immaterial "work of the mind" and the materiality of its "exchange value", there are certain paintings – New York Times Sutras, 2008, for example – which, in a minimalist frame of reference, bring together newspaper cuttings, including reports of sales and shows, price lists and photographs smothered in paint, along with scenes from exhibitions (Frank Stella, for example). These images define a mental space. Other works include printed matter, and, more recently, photographs, particularly those taken in London with a Leica 35 mm camera – the one favored by Robert Frank, a photographer Rapson reveres – or just a cheap cell phone. Men in suits hurry down Lombard Street, obstinate but fragile. And the same obstinacy, the same fragility are to be found in Rapson’s videos. East Cliff shows an exhausted woman dragging along a suitcase full of sand, "because I loved the film about Camille Claudel, with Gérard Depardieu playing Rodin," she says simply, "and also because I myself used to haul bags stuffed with equipment down Canal Street." She is thus defining a relationship of the body to space within a system of invisible forces and a metaphorical vision of the artist in action.
Though Rapson makes reference to the structures and networks of the art world, she has now got to a point where she is beginning to distance herself from them. With Ash Paintings, 2008, and Ash Banners, 2010, her approach grew more radical. And the postulate of art as inherently transcendental is precisely what she uses in determining its "real value". Neither "fun" nor "entertainment" – for her, the function of art can be likened to that of meditation. Her work shows a rare sense of humility, but also an extreme intensity. Immobile at the heart of social agitation, Rapson creates silence where everything has been consumed. Bernard Zürcher
Recent exhibitions : Transcendental Materialism, Zürcher Studio, New York (exposition personnelle) ; Le Tableau, sous le commissariat de Joe Fyfe, Cheim & Read, New York ; Schmoovement, LaMama Gallery, New York (2010) The Buddhist Trade, Hive Projects, London (exposition personnelle) ; Site, Northbank, London (2009)