To understand what Sarah Hinckley’s paintings are all about, the best thing to do is drive out to a bay-side beach at low tide, get out of the car, and just gaze for a moment. Blur your eyes a little bit and stare at the sand and the flat steel stripe of water under blue sky and hazy white sun. “It’s really about color,” says Hinckley. “The other stuff is just an excuse to get the color down there and to make the color work. I like these washed out, dirty, really pale browns, a washed out cobalt green that looks almost blue—sun-drenched colors that have been washed out from the sunlight over time.”
The paintings are formal explorations of color and composition with a limited vocabulary of forms that Hinckley rearranges in infinite ways. There are always bands of color. There are organic, flower-like silhouette forms. The works are deceptively simple, and while each one follows a formula, they somehow resist becoming formulaic. Each is an iteration of a theme, an articulation of a dream state, one piece in a circle of moments, where nature struck color, and color struck a chord. From restraint and simplicity comes possibility and diversity.
Hinckley’s process is intuitive. She starts by layering drips of thinned colors onto the canvas. “Working out a painting is just how I think,” explains Hinckley. “If something looks good with a painting, I feel like you have to earn it—maybe it’s my New England roots—so I’m always painting over, painting in and painting out. You can’t just sit down and finish a painting in a day. It’s kind of like Chapin Beach—the tide goes out, but it comes back in and covers everything, and it’s beautiful. You can see that in my paintings. You can see where I’ve painted over something.”
Hinckley attributes her artistic inspiration to a seemingly idyllic childhood spent outdoors near water. “We were always outside. We would just have to come home for dinner,” she says. “We would roam all over our neighborhood, go all through the marshes. My mom didn’t know where we were, and we were having a blast.”
While Hinckley currently works in Brooklyn, New York and lives in Manhattan, her roots are firmly planted here as a thirteenth generation Cape Codder. Growing up in Cummaquid, Hinckley spent many days out on the Cape’s beaches. “Chapin Beach at low tide was always one of my favorite places. When all you see is sea and sky, that palette is a big inspiration.” Today, despite her geographical moves, water has been a constant companion. “I live right by the water. In my studio, I can’t see the water, but it’s right there. I grew up with the water right down the street. I’ve always been close to the water.”