Tannery Project

Billboard Project #1
Sarah Macdonald

Sarah Macdonald Interior, Eight Chairs and Empty Table, 2021 Original drawing: Oil Paint on Primed Paper8G4A0192-1536x1090



Sarah Macdonald
Interior, Eight Chairs and Empty Table, 2021
Original drawing: Oil Paint on Primed Paper



Interior, Eight Chairs and Empty Table is a composition, in its layered imagery, that reveals how the absence of human presence haunts empty domestic settings. By tracing spaces between objects, overlaying different translucent colours, and juxta-posing shifting scales, Macdonald’s image creates an ambiguous and disorientating world for the viewer. One is unsure what is solid, where the ground lies, where lie the edges, or which viewpoint to take –– despite this, the shadow of a chair and the form of a table surface remind us of the presence of people and the actions of day-to-day life.

Macdonald’s images reflect how ordinary and intimate images of domestic interiors can echo our sense of incompleteness. These estranged spaces imagine fleeting moments of disconnection; they suggest the experiences of alienation that lurk in all our rituals of everyday domestic life. Macdonald made the original line drawings, from which this work is based, in a friend’s home, absent of guests during the summer of 2020.

Macdonald’s billboard-sized image connects outside with inside as the work relates to another of her works, among the A4 drawings currently on display within the Drawing Room in its Drawing Biennial 2021. She has chosen to echo this with two A4 sheets pasted onto the billboard, each contains a cut out silhouette approximating a quota-tion mark.


Interior, Eight Chairs and Empty Table is the first of a series of four temporary bill-boards commissions for Tannery Projects, curated by Nina Shen-Poblete, Chinese-born cultural producer based in Folkestone, co-founder and director at HOP Projects CT20.

Shen-Poblete has invited artists associated with Tannery Arts, including Sarah Macdonald, Mahal De Man, David Batchelor and the local community, led by ‘Rock, Paper Scissors’ to create a rolling series of Billboard artworks on display between May and September 2021.

On commissioning Interior, Eight Chairs and Empty Table Shen-Poblete writes:

Before becoming public works of art, these individual images were made as personal, biographical records. This intervention thus becomes an invitation to share an inti-mate dialogue. Be it a painting, a drawing, a collage or a photograph, the works are created with a deep compassion for the invisible, the intangible, the transient, the un-der-rated, the overlooked and the nameless – the raw materials of contemporary ex-perience turned into a set of contemporary portraits of living, and a monument to un-told stories.

The feelings of incompleteness, abandonment and not having a ‘home’ as lived by a migrant when arriving to a new place is described by John Berger as ‘the extreme form of a more general and widespread experience.’ I understood it to be an acute sense of alienation and unspeakable loneliness. The horrors of social distancing and months of isolation, demonstrate that the sense of being ‘at home’ has very little to do with the four walls and a roof, and more to do with a set of habits, rituals and memo-ries created and shared between one another. Berger’s words invite us to empathise with the other, rather than to stigmatise and to displace.

The pandemic has amplified social fragmentations that already existed beneath the veneers of progress and prosperity. Can art help to reconnect and restore ‘human-ness’, on a site that has borne witness to recent traumas of irretrievable human and cultural losses. ‘The very sense of loss keeps alive an expectation.’ Perhaps artistic expressions find ‘home’ and urgency at this very moment in time, albeit in a muted, oblique and poetic way.

Nina Shen-PobleteMay 2021

[1] Berger, John, ‘And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos’, Granta Books, 1992

[2] Ditto