The artist Sarah Maple has been described as the heir to Tracey Emin’s throne, has won a highly coveted Saatchi award and received death threats over her paintings. So, as a young Muslim artist, how does she approach the creative conundrum of art, comedy and politics…?
A lot of your work is autobiographical. What’s your technical process?
I have someone who helps me now. He happens to be my other half, which is lucky, because for my new painting I’m dressed as a giant baby. When I bought the outfit I thought it would be a jokey, fancy dress one. But it turned out to be fetishwear: an actual nappy.
Is there a particular tool or way of working that you think helped your work develop?
I’ve always been very interested in social media. In 2007, when I realised what I wanted to do as an artist, I started posting work on Myspace.
A lot of artists don’t seem to recognise social media and the internet – Tracey Emin doesn’t even have a website. But if you’re an emerging artist you’re missing a trick if you don’t use it to your advantage.
Talking of Tracey Emin, how did it feel to be described by the Independent on Sunday as the heir to her throne?
It was nice. I admire how far she’s got and the respect she’s got in the art world, particularly as a female artist. I don’t take it too seriously, but it’s nice to be able to put a good quote on my website.
If you were given £30,000 funding, over a whole year, what would you do with it?
Buy more fetishwear? Seriously, I would probably spend it on a really nice studio. Or, as I live in Crawley, on coming up to London. It would be nice to hire out a workspace abroad – I went to New York for three months and that really inspired me. I would also quite like to go to where Frida Kahlo lived – they have a museum there now.
What’s your current studio like?
It’s in a builder’s yard, so there’s a big mix of people. Across the way are two engineers and next to me is someone building a recording studio. I’m preparing for my solo show in January so it’s so full of canvases at the moment, I can hardly move.
We’ve been discussing The Mum Filter here at IdeasMag. Do you ever worry about what your parents will think of your work?
It was more of a worry when I first started, because I didn’t know how my mum would react. She wanted to be an artist but couldn’t pursue it, so she has always supported me. Although, I don’t think she really gets what I’m painting or why. I’m doing a show in Paris next month where they’re showing my cock series. When I told my mum she just said, “They like weird stuff over there”.
People often write about your Muslim background. Do you think it’s important to your work?
The fact that I’m Muslim does influence everything I do, subconsciously. But I don’t want to be typecast as “the one who does the hijab paintings”.
One of your pieces is called The Opposite to a Feminist is an Arsehole. When did you become a feminist?
I suppose I’ve always been one, but didn’t realise or recognise it. When I was younger it was sort of a dirty word – I didn’t really get what it meant. I thought it was all just hairy armpits.
Do you find it easy to combine politics, comedy and art?
All my work has some agenda or message that I’m trying to put across. For instance, I did my Who Wore it Best series because I hate those things. They pit women against each other. Why do we even have to have this conversation? Why does it matter?
I think art should be entertaining; if something’s funny you’re more likely to remember it.
To find out more about Sarah’s shows in Paris and London, visit her website.
To win £30,000 finding over an entire year, visit the Sky Arts Ignition: Futures Fund brief.