Sarah Albisser’s art features strong female characters with a powerful presence

As an award-winning choreographer turned artist, Sarah Albisser expertly explores the power of creative improvisation in her artwork.

“Art is an expression of freedom,” says Sarah Albisser. “It’s connecting with your subconscious mind and being able to express emotions, thoughts and feelings into a visual form.”

Sarah learnt the art of improvisation as an award-winning choreographer in New York before moving to Wellington. She starts off her painting and drawing projects simply by spending time in her home studio. “It’s that power of being in the moment,” she says, “just connecting with yourself and then things flow. That’s my way of getting into something deeper.”

Sarah Albisser creating black and white art
Swiss-New Zealand artist Sarah Albisser creates dynamic artworks of strong female characters from her home studio. IMAGE VIA LUKE HARVEY

The contemporary artist moves between mixed media styles, especially when she needs to step back and seek a new perspective. She has experimented with classic black and white portraits for more than 14 years, focusing on tones, lines and forms. “Black and white has something more abstract and there’s also a simplicity about it,” she says. “Colour feels like a distraction from what I want to do.”

artwork by Sarah Albisser using different mediums
Sarah’s studio is currently in a converted garage at her home in Days Bay, Wellington. Here she creates “wirehead” drawings and paper works intertwined with thick thread. IMAGE VIA LUKE HARVEY

Her work focuses on strong female characters with a powerful presence. Her large paintings centre on two figures that are one and the same: a realistic figure and it’s more abstract side. Meanwhile, her “wirehead” drawings have evolved from a history of sketching. Inspired by a lifelong fascination with faces, expressions, bodies and gestures, Sarah has created these women through “uncontrolled and controlled chaos”.

Sarah Albisser artwork depicting an eye
IMAGE VIA LUKE HARVEY

For her paper works, she uses ink and thick thread, which she stitches into the designs, its natural curl giving a more 3D effect. She also works with Perspex for its unique texture.

Sarah Albisser Lockdown block head drawings
IMAGE VIA LUKE HARVEY

Recently, Sarah created her Lockdown series, which centres on figures that have a black box for a head. They are a reminder to track how we are feeling during these panicked pandemic times, as well as where we are going, she says. They also represent how our minds store our past and present.

Sarah Albisser lockdown artwork with black box head
Sarah’s Lockdown series is a reminder to watch our thinking patterns, as well as interactions, during Covid-19. IMAGE VIA LUKE HARVEY

Sarah’s upbringing in Lucerne, Switzerland, is etched into her work. From the time she could first hold a pen, she would create beside her father, Paul, an architect and artist, in his home studio. Her parents collected minimal and abstract art, and Sarah can remember days spent in tow, touring galleries in nearby towns.

Sarah Albisser black framed artwork
Sarah finishes her artworks with sleek frames to suit any home style. IMAGE VIA LUKE HARVEY

Her current home in Days Bay is an inspiring and active spot, close to the beach and walking tracks. The art she chooses to display here varies but she is drawn to surrealism. “I do like beautiful things,” she says. “Sometimes you see something and you just fall in love.”

The National Distillery Company's Adorn Beauty Gin bottle
Off the wall, one of her figures graces The National Distillery Company’s limited-edition Adorn Beauty Gin bottle. IMAGE VIA LUKE HARVEY

Sarah’s work can be found in galleries and stores around New Zealand, and her artworks are held in private collections around the world. When preparing her art for new owners, she invests time in the final look of each piece, presenting them in angular black frames that work well with both modern and traditional interiors.

Sarah Albisser wearing black surrounded by her art
IMAGE VIA LUKE HARVEY

She sees art in everything, and one of her figures even appears on a special bottle of Adorn Beauty Gin. The work is a manifestation of female beauty and power, which she says comes from a woman knowing her true self.

“I can’t imagine life without creativity,” says Sarah. “I think everybody is looking for or has something in their life where they can express themselves.”

To see more of Sarah’s work, visit sarahalbisser.com


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