Armoured: Sara Berman and Luella Bartley

11 May - 11 June 2022 London

Private View: Tuesday 10th of May from 5:30-8:00pm 

London (Wandsworth) 






Keeping a dark or secret profile.


Hardened for the elements; soft-centred.


Inviting attack by being prepared for it, provocative.




Sustaining belief in the inside and the outside,

the invulnerable space and the essentially unprotected body.


Clothes as noise.


Undressing revised.


Poem by Judith Clark and Adam Phillips

This show is dedicated to Kip Sims


Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery is delighted to present the first exhibition by artists Sara Berman and Luella Bartley running from 11 May – 11 June 2022. The title, Armoured, is taken from a poem by fashion curator Judith Clark and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, which inspired the two artists. Their show includes new works by Berman and Bartley, whose practices explore the female experience, specifically in relation to the body and space.


This joint exhibition presents viewers with Berman’s boldly scaled paintings of women dealing with the semiotics of dress-in this instance in the context of armour, alongside Bartley’s stark white sculptures of bandaged, contorted limbs, bent into angles that are simultaneously bold and awkward, beautiful, and grotesque. Bartley will also include gestural drawings of the naked female body, twisted into brazen postures. Both artist’s work possesses a compelling sense of rawness and intimacy: it is a visual dialogue that the viewer is invited not just to witness but to participate in.


Berman and Bartley ‘s work connects via an artistic language that is rooted in a deep understanding of textiles and the body and a precise intersection of time and place. Both women share former careers as fashion designers whose brands were born out of the very particular environment of the mid-90’s. Whilst Berman’s subjects are concealed figures, protected by their clothing, Bartley’s figures bare all, exposing vulnerability to the viewer. Seeing both artists works side by side, the viewer experiences a juxtaposition, alongside the evident trust between the artists as women and friends.


Armoured, is the culmination of an intense period of artistic exchange that inspired and motivated both artists to push their work in new, bold and often, uncomfortable directions. This involved a process of thinking, talking and making ‘frantically for days’, in the spirit of experimentation, but also out of a willingness to feel challenged and vulnerable. ‘We have been having this very beautiful, honest dialogue about femininity and what it’s like to be in our bodies at this stage of our life,’ says Berman.


Bartley describes her approach to art as a kind of ‘wrestling with self’, which extends to her engagement with her materials. Her drawings are made with a sharp, scratchy pencil that creates a sense of violent urgency in contrast to the more confident, fluid lines, which are painted with a long, ‘sword-like’ brush that necessitates a physical distance between the artist and her surface. Meanwhile, the bulging contours of her sculptures hold the shape of her hands where she has pulled, pressed and squished the clay and then bandaged it delicately with white plaster as if attempting to disguise or even repair her prior brutality.


Berman begins by painting the distinctive diamond-shaped pattern of the harlequin’s costume as a base layer onto her canvas, which she then works over with layers of paint, scraping, pushing and wiping to create a mottled, bruised surface that articulates both violence and fragility. The paint appears almost translucent, revealing glimpses of the pattern or what Berman describes as ‘the soul’ of the painting beneath. This is a reference to the harlequin woman who is considered a trickster and a harlot, whilst her male counterpart is considered a larger-than-life comedian. Berman’s women, rendered at larger-than-life scale as well as a few smaller scale canvases, appear to overwhelm the space, acting as another form of concealment while also being obscured themselves by thick, bulky garments that, in some cases, literally restrict the movement of, or access to the body.


Sara Berman says: “The act of acknowledging one’s armour draws attention to inevitable softness underneath. This is a theme that I am continually attempting to address through my use of the Harlequin motif the materiality of paint.”


Luella Bartley says: “This exhibition explores the vulnerability yet guardedness that one can feel in one same moment. It is bold, it is harsh, and it is full of contradictions. Above all, it is a personal investigation.”