April 6 — May 25, 2019


Sarah Ball



Conduit Gallery is honored to announce a solo exhibition of new paintings by British artist, Sarah Ball. Using nineteenth and twentieth century photographic archives as the basis for a series of intimate paintings, the works in Bertillon reflect contemporary issues relating to criminal justice both in the United States and in Europe.

Bertillon is a continuation of Sarah Ball’s interest in the human truth of her anonymous protagonists. In this new collection of paintings, which vary in scale from small studies (7x5”) to larger-than-life portraits (40x40”), Ball explores how prejudice leads to assumption about people, through assessing appearance.

The exhibition takes its title from Alphonse Bertillon, a French police officer and biometrics researcher who applied the anthropological technique of anthropometry to law enforcement in the late 1800’s, using photography to create an identification system based on physical measurements. Used to evidence the pathology of crime and criminals, photography was thought to connect outward physical appearance and inner character traits. In essence it was believed good people ‘looked good’ and morally suspect people ‘looked bad or ugly’. Bertillon searched for; “The harmony of moral beauty and physical beauty… the science of discovering the relation between the exterior and interior – between the visible surface and the invisible spirit it covers…” (1)

The research material comes from various police archives and from different periods in history including the first Bertillon mug shots of 19th Century French anarchists and American Freedom Riders from the 1960’s.

“Images are important partly because they can generate compassion… to recognize ourselves in the experience of strangers and can make their pain matter to us as much as our own.” Alain De Botton, philosopher. (2)

1 Johann Kasper Lavater ‘Essays on Physiognomy: Designed to Promote the Knowledge and Love of Mankind. Vol 1’, 1789

2 Alain De Botton, ‘Religion for Atheists’, Penguin, 2012

When choosing her subjects, Ball mines archival photographs and historical documentation, including police ‘mug shot’ archives. Her subjects may or may not have known narratives, but she treats each one with an intricate portraiture that re-establishes the imagined lives of her often anonymous, unknowing sitter. Painted with a background devoid of imagery, Ball allows her subjects a limited focus, drawing attention to the facial features that convey each person intimately, but without prejudice. Such scrutiny compels the viewer to draw their own conclusions and contemplate whether and how we still judge others based on aesthetics, assumptions and visceral reactions.

Born in Yorkshire, England in 1965, Sarah Ball currently lives and works in west Cornwall. Sarah Ball studied at Newport Art College in the early 1980s, then earned an MFA at Bath Spa University in 2005. She has exhibited widely and internationally including: IFPDA Print Fair New York with Paupers Press (2018); Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition, London (2018); The Threadneedle Prize (2018); Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2018); Anima-Mundi Gallery, St. Ives, UK (2017, 2015, 2013); High Lanes Gallery (2016); House of St. Barnabas, Soho Square, London (2015) and Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Cornwall, UK (2015); This will be the third solo exhibition of Sarah Ball’s work at Conduit Gallery.

Artists in this Exhibition