Anna Sebastian
What We May Also Do

3 April 2024 – 27 July 2024
Private view 3 April 2024, 6:30pm

Anna Sebastian is a painter of the subconscious. At the first encounter, her works bear the authority of figuration. A woman casually engages in conversation with a man who is in his shirt sleeves. Inches to the left, she is there again, restlessly framed by a sofa. A colour palette familiar from the Kodak picture places these scenes in the American boom era. A trail of cigarette smoke gives the scene an air of sophistication. 

The image cycle Gloria follows Three Approaches to Psychotherapy, a series of 1960s scientific films in which a young woman undertook therapeutic interventions for the camera. Gloria, whose pink dress now distracts the viewer’s attention in duplicate on the canvas, was a one-person mock medical trial. Her emotions became the fodder for a generation of trainee therapists. 

The events recorded on Sebastian’s canvases are arcane, but the reality of the people and places rendered is not up for contest. Objects, bodies, and interiors meet their representations where one would expect them. In therapy, the subject’s intimate thoughts enter the permanent record even before they become action. In Gloria’s consulting room documentary, truth is a Wikipedia search away. We might assume that the same is true of oil paint. 

These paintings catch and multiply scenes from the films and thus from Gloria’s life. The very existence of these documents implies that the patient’s account of herself on film and on the canvas is accurate. The therapists’ cigarette smoke gives these scenes an air of authenticity.

The evidence trail is not the sole source of these images, however. To falsify it is of little interest to their maker. Sebastian is a painter of the subconscious. Each canvas begins with a set scene but soon runs away from the frame and into another.

In the Gloria paintings, Gloria’s therapy couch performance becomes a pretext for an excursion into an interior landscape. In one of the images, Sebastian inserted an exquisite picture window into the pseudo-documentary reality of her subject. This vista, perversely rendered in finer detail than Sebastian affords to the protagonists, becomes a pasture for Gloria’s subconscious. 

Planes and grounds thus become entangled. What Gloria isn’t feeling is, perhaps, more important than what she is doing, saying, or thinking. There is no steadfast resolution in Sebastian’s picture-in-picture aesthetics. But when how a culture narrates the painting’s edge determines whether its subject may transgress it, to abandon the scientific rigour of an instructional film for an artist’s internal landscape is a worthwhile bet.

  • Anna Sebastian

    Anna Sebastian’s painting practice follows alternative and imagined realities, myth, history, and religion.

  • What We May Also Do by Oliver Bennett

    2, 3 July 2024, 7pm

    A reading of a new play by Oliver Bennett exploring ideas of transference and authoritarianism, specifically written to accompany Anna Sebastian’s exhibition with which it shares its title.

  • The Psychoanalyst and The Artist

    12 June 2024

    New York psychoanalyst and author Jamieson Webster explores the relationship of art and psychoanalysis, with the artist’s studio and the analyst’s couch as sites of convergence.