Layers of Life

5th May 2023

The following is an extract from the article published in Inspirations magazine #109, written by Ansie van der Walt.

Sabine Kaner works in layers. Layers of fabric, stitches, and colour; but also, in layers of emotions, feelings, identities, and mindsets.

Sabine grew up in London in a mixed-race, immigrant family during the 1960s and ’70s. A difficult childhood as a result of racism, poverty and ill health forced Sabine to turn to art for survival and solace. She won her first award for art at the age of five and she has not stopped creating since. 

Trained as a fine art printer, Sabine worked with hand and screen printing before being diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder that forced her to reassess the materials she used. She then started experimenting with textiles and stitching.

Sabine approaches her work through a variety of psychological lenses.

‘I am concerned with the human condition, identity, social and current events, as well as the landscape of the mind.’

Symbolic references, both abstract and recognisable shapes, and a strong sense of colour co-exist in Sabine’s work. She builds her artworks in layers using paint, print, appliqué, deconstructed clothing, and stitching. ‘Texture is important, and I try to recreate it through a variety of threads including wool and recycled materials.’

Over time Sabine has become familiar with the qualities of different fabrics and the best ways to work with them. The art of hand sewing is slow and meditative but sometimes requires a bit of strength to pull through the layers of material. ‘Despite the challenges this poses, the whole process is part of the joy of creating. Hand sewing feels like my own personal handwriting in the style of the stitches that I choose.

I begin a piece of work with paint and print, which means I have to take into consideration the colours I want to use right from the start. I usually try to spend a day just printing, using bits and pieces to replicate various textured surfaces, often experimenting at this stage. I use a mixture of acrylic, watercolour paint, and printing for the background. On top of this, I assemble various fabrics, often a layer of felt or boiled wool. I experiment with the deconstructed clothing that I have chosen for the piece, referencing my drawings.

For the next layer, Sabine transfers her drawing, outlining her stitch work, or attaching shapes and appliqués into which she wants to stitch. 

Each piece is unique and uses a variation of her techniques.

‘With each composition, I try to challenge myself to learn something new. I am constantly trying to create a balance between colour and the images in my mixed media work, arranging pieces of fabric and temporarily pinning them down. Once I start stitching, it is more difficult to make changes, so I have to picture the final image in my mind.’

As in her artwork, Sabine’s life has many layers – some visible and some hidden. Some are part of the structure and some are added to create texture, variety, and nuance. ‘Most people’s lives weave in and out of a variety of challenging experiences. My work tries to capture some of this story. Using collage enables me to put many ideas together in one piece. I would like to connect with the viewer through my work by expressing the whole range of emotions that we as humans can experience, from pain to joy!’

You can read the full version of this article HERE or follow Sabine on her Instagram account HERE and visit her website HERE.

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