Arts / Culture

In Sara Mugnes’ solo exhibition the painter throws us into the deep end of her interior life

Like so many internet natives her age, Sara Mugnes uses Instagram as a diary, a perennial moodboard, an almanac of her emotional life. But it's not just social media she wields in this way. True to her words, the painter – who told RUSSH how as a child she could never focus on just one thing, was always cooking something up with her hands – journals her feelings and ideas on the canvas with loose watery strokes. Painting may not be the only medium she's interested in – Mugnes has tried her hand at photography, styling, even writing – but it's the one that feels most natural. Looking at the paintings in her solo show The Deep End at HAKE House of Art, it's clear that Cy Twombly is an influence; even more so, Mugnes is one to watch.

RUSSH caught up with the National Art School graduate to discuss the diaristic nature of The Deep End. Find our conversation, below.

sara mugnes

What’s the first thing we should know about you?

I carry a camera everywhere with me.


My first memory of painting is...

My first memory of painting is probably in preschool. I had a bright yellow apron that mum would make me wear and I had a little easel and small pots of paint. I remember mixing all of the colours together and it turning to brown and being very disappointed by that.


Can you tell me a little bit about your art career until now. When did you begin painting and what spurred you on since?

Ever since I can remember I have always been drawing and creating things. As I kid, I could never just do one thing at a time, I always had to make something with my hands. I continued to love art at school, but I never thought I would be an artist. I didn’t even really know you could. When I went to art school, I fell in love with painting, as it was very new to me and I found it challenging. I think the environment of art school and the friends I made there really encouraged me to keep going and continue to find new ideas or ways to answer a question I was trying to understand with my work. I learnt a lot about myself there. Since then, I have been continuing to create and refine my practice and learn about myself and the world through my art.

sara mugnes

What sparked the idea for your solo show at HAKE House?

In the past my practice has focused on my exterior environment and landscape. More recently my work started to naturally transition towards more of a focus on my inner landscape and emotions. I have always been a very introspective person and I think maybe I was always holding back from expressing that through my art until now. When I began to let go of judgement from myself, I started to express myself more vulnerably. Naturally, this inspired the idea for my solo show.


You’ve said The Deep End documents your inner monologue, like a diary. Do you keep a diary?

Yes, I sure do! I have been a keeping a journal ever since I could write. I have always found pleasure in writing and documenting things and making up stories. It is really lovely to look back on what I have written, it always gives me new ideas. I always keep my journal on me, as I tend get ideas at the strangest times and I have to write them down straight away.

sara mugnes

When I’m not painting you’ll find me…

Swimming in the ocean or by the sea.


The first artwork I felt emotionally moved by is…

The Ten Largest by Hilma af Klint. Viewing her work in person for the first time truly felt like a religious experience.


The artist I look up to most is…

I look up to so many artists, I can’t pick just one! Some of them include Philip Guston, Cy Twombly, Matisse, Noel McKenna, Hilma af Klint and Elizabeth Cummings.

sara mugnes

What music, film and books were you consuming while creating The Deep End?

I read a lot of poetry and non-fiction when creating this body of work, including the likes of Mary Oliver, Ocean Vuong and Letters to a Young Painter by Rainer Maria Rilke and I Paint What I Want To See by Philip Guston. I also read The Secret History by Donna Tartt, I just love the way she writes. I also listened to a lot of Gracie Abrams, Lizzy McAlpine, Olivia Rodrigo, Dominic Fike and Jeff Buckley. I think the music that I listen to really influences the way that I write.


What are you looking forward to in 2024?

I think what I am most looking forward to in 2024 is the unknown. I really don’t know what the future holds for me but I think it is really exciting because there are so many possibilities.


The Deep End is on display at HAKE House of Art until October 2.

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