Alert: Sarah Simblet, Anatomy for the Artist

by Vahni Capildeo


Sarah Simblet
Anatomy for the Artist (Artistís Book)
Dorling: Kindersley, 2001


Sarah Simblet is also working on another book; she is an extraordinary anatomical artist, whose work seems to me feminist in effect. Unlike other anatomical artists, she does not deal with the dead, but with the living. Instead of a depiction of the human form that relies on the play of light over the surface of skin, she shows the living body as an outline (charcoal, pencil, ink) with all its internal structures transparent to us in their engaged complexity. This breaks down the barrier between the outward and visible posture and movement, and the corresponding inner workings that express and maintain the body's life. The drawings, often over a huge, wall-sized space, do not delimit themselves with borders, but have lines that vanish, in full motion, over the paper's edge. Their delicacy of technique is botanical but their vigour is unparalleled. In the illustrations to her book, a variety of models has been used. In her non-illustrative work, Simblet takes herself as her model. Thematically, she is concerned with reflections and the way the body on display is traditionally enclosed the glass of a museum case or a mirror, or frozen in a pose by the viewer's gaze. Simblet does not allow this kind of objectification. She shifts and layers her drawings so that the viewer is forced to take up a position as if in the case or mirror, statically, from which the bodies themselves are escaping. For me, her work is as exciting as what Michelangelo did for the male youth. Sarah Simblet is based at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford.

BIO: Vahni Capildeo's book No Traveller Returns (Salt, 2003) is available from or via Amazon.

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