Sarah Moller- What the Sax Player Saw When the Lights Went Out

Sarah commenced art studies at Adelaide Central School of Art and completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts and Industries (Honours) at Charles Darwin University in 2010. She  is currently undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy (Fine Arts) through Charles Darwin University, and has recently returned from Germany, where she undertook a year’s research under Professor Anne Berning at the Akademie für Bildende Künst,  Mainz.
“What the sax player saw when the lights went out” is an amazing exhibition. It is designed entirely for the space which is actually  the Promethean, a theatre space. It captures the essence of the 20’s when a spirit of excess and a devil-may-care attitude caused many in society to live life to the fullest. Many, women in particular, frequented speakeasy bars during the prohibition. The clothing was risqué for the time and ushered in a new confidence in one’s appearance, bucking social trends which would have women stay at home literally bound in their corsets.

All Brass‘, oil on canvas, 2012.
This is a vibrant painting of a young lady literally nestled into the spotlight. Her white flapper dress sparkles against the brightness. She is holding a trumpet aloft in her right hand and is kicking her right leg into the air. Her body seems cradled into the bottom corner of the work, nestled into the warm glow of the light itself. She is decorated with feathers and tassels in the style of the roaring 20’s. Her hair is short with love locks on her cheeks; as was the style of this new age. She has a look that suggests that she is a consummate performer, confident within her surroundings yet while her mouth displays virtually no emotion. Her eyes glance sideways in an alluring manner and draw our focus.

The image is derived from an image of a woman in the 1920’s. In the original she is holding a fan-shaped object, in Moller’s rendition she is holding a trumpet. Her hands are twisted in queer ways; theatrically gesticulating, they compliment her stage presence. The most interesting aspect of this work is the composition. The viewer’s eye is led about the round spotlight, over the figure of the woman. Bold dark contrasting shadows direct us as we navigate the work. Colour is a strong element that dominates the space. Sarah has used analogous colour to great effect, softening the impact of bold reds and white with purple shadows.

This work captures essence of jazz in the roaring 20’s where a truly profound change was ushered into society. People, women in particular cast off the shackles of traditional values and danced the Charleston in Speakeasys under the glow of new electric lights. The corset was gone and life was in fast forward. This painting is a tribute to the women liberated in this age.

‘Hornblowers’, oil on canvas 2013.
In this painting we see two jazz musicians, one of which appears to be Louis Armstrong (What can I say I have just recently watched Casablanca again), the other is obscured by their trumpet.  They play amid the sparkle of ethereal electric lights aglow in the background.  Armstrong’s eyes gaze wide as he plays a note and we can almost hear the sound. The 1920’s was not just a liberating time for women. Black musicians such are Armstrong were able to “crossover” into mainstream music. For the first time they would be known for their musical genius and not the colour of their skin.
Again in Sarah Moller’s painting it is colour that is the defining element; rich deep violet serves to anchor the subjects into the darkness allowing the brighter red and white hues to complement the figures and define them.

The energy and vibrancy of 1920’s jazz music is captured beautifully in this work with bold colour and light. In the dim lighting of the theatre space this work shines.

Viewing these images on the walls as the performer “Movin Melvin Brown” performed on stage transported me back to an exciting yet turbulent time in our human history.

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