Only Once in the Light is a joint exhibition by Charleston-based duo Leigh Sabisch and Allison Koch, known as Sardine Press. They present collaborative artworks combining oil painting and printmaking at Redux Contemporary Art Center now through March 18.
“After years of friendship, what started as me babbling about starting a mobile print studio turned into this sort of collaborative, intertwined studio practice that incorporates pretty much anything we feel like exploring,” Sabisch said. “Both of us are rooted in printmaking, Allison much more so, but we will never stop playing in the studio and experimenting with other mediums.”
Sabisch graduated in 2017 from the College of Charleston, where she met Koch who was working as a printmaking technician for the college. In 2019, the duo founded Sardine Press.
Since then, they have made and exhibited art collaboratively, including a 2022 residency and exhibition at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Their goal is to eventually “cram their love of printmaking and teaching” into a mid-sized RV, which they have converted into a printmaking studio (hence the name, Sardine Press).
Sabisch said when she and Koch worked separately, they gravitated towards the same themes and ideas, which led to their eventual collaboration.
“I think we push each other to like more and different things,” Sabisch said, “So it’s been a fun process [to collaborate].”
The Redux exhibition, Only Once in the Light, is the result of the pair looking back on previous bodies of work and noting how they individually handle the effects of light.
“For the show at Redux, we wanted light to be our unifying theme,” Sabisch said. “I had an art professor back in the day tell me to just ‘notice something’ and the rest will happen naturally. That’s something that I’ve kept in the back of my mind. So we looked retrospectively at all our work we made while in residency at the Gibbes, and [what we noticed was] we both kind of have these themes of light that we want to explore further.
“I decided I want to explore color and the reflection of light — how the figures are reacting to and affected by light,” she said. “Allison wanted to play with the physical, actual treatment of light on the surface, also experimenting with different materials.”
Koch explores movement and chaos through the creation of intangible landscapes and spaces — using piles of knotted strings or intricate and unplanned patterns. Sabisch’s work is figurative, depicting masses of twisted limbs and blankets, intertwined and grasping. Both artists handle their respective subject matter: for Sabisch, the figure, and Koch, abstracted forms with a careful consideration of tension and release.
“It took a couple years for us to realize we are kind of saying the same things here … What if we put our work together?” Sabisch said. “And now, here we are.”
In the past, the two artists have planned and executed printmaking fundraisers for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood as well as pop-up, hands-on printmaking events. In addition to the six-week exhibition at Redux, the pair will host a two-day monotype workshop inspired by speed dating. (In March, date TBA.)
“It will be a print mixer, based around food,” Sabisch said. “So the printmaking exercise will be based on staples you might find in your fridge, like a mustard bottle, or garlic, and then the participants will go around and figure out, with the ingredients that you chose, who can you team up with to make a good meal? So you team up with them and then print a composition collaboratively. We wanted to do something fun and playful.”
To learn more about Allison Koch, Leigh Sabisch and their joint venture, Sardine Press, visit sardinepress.com.
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