Saskia Fleishman

Updated: May 13, 2020


I think about my paintings as objects and not windows into illusionistic space. The object itself is creating an illusion with texture, edges, and color.


Saskia Fleishman b. 1995 graduated Rhode Island School of Design in 2017 with a BFA in painting. Fleishman is based in Brooklyn, NYC. Recent residencies include: Wassaic Project, ChaNorth, Vermont Studio Center, Trestle Art Space, The Otis Emerging Curator Retreat, and PADA Studios. Fleishman’s work has been published in Art Maze Magazine, Create! Magazine, Galerie Magazine, and Friend of the Artist. Curious about curating other artists' work as well as exhibiting her own, Saskia continues to collaborate with peers in the greater New York area. In addition, Fleishman has exhibited her work in Miami, Providence, Rome, San Juan, Lisbon, and Milwaukee.


My current body of work is generated from landscape photographs taken on recent trips and images sourced from my families collection taken around the tidewater Chesapeake Bay area. These photographs are then recomposed as geometric abstractions or color studies derived from Joseph Albers', ”The Interaction Of Color” by tilting the image, flipping the horizon line, or cutting out a part of the landscape. These gestures serve to demonstrate the malleability and impermanence of memory over time and in space. The paintings pair flat and smooth masked airbrushed gradients with textural materials such as sand, clay, burlap, and chiffon to create an interpretation of place and moment with material. This work forms a space to contemplate points in time, perception, and our relationship to memories embedded in our landscapes.

Upside Down - acrylic & sand on burlap - 2019

Can you talk about your use of the natural landscape as a backdrop within your paintings?

My interest in using landscape imagery began with archiving my family photographs taken around the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. I lived on the Chesapeake until I was 11 and my mother's side of the family has lived there for 3 generations. I began to think about how this landscape both visually and socially has played a huge role in my and my ancestors' lives. Visually it is beautiful, full of rich marsh and wildlife, but socially it is heavily conservative and many of my family members were and are at political odds with their community. I am interested in this push and pull between the memory of a beautiful natural landscape and what is missing within that memory, which may be more painful and difficult to process. Furthermore, this work responds to the biased nature of memory and, therefore, how memory cannot be truthful or whole.

I am also interested in the life cycles of landscapes and how we are merely passing through and temporarily inhabiting these places. I think about fleeting moments and personal childhood nostalgia for place and home within these temporary inhabitants.

Coral - ceramic - 2019

How have the traditions of functional or craft pottery influenced your ceramic pieces?

I’m not well versed in traditional pottery but I think that I have rejected most traditions because my ceramic vases are completely nonfunctional. I have been working in ceramics for quite a while, but this series of vessels is the first body of ceramic work that I feel represents my interests successfully. I connected with Joanne Greenbaum and Polly Apfelbaum ceramic work. Joannes sculptures are so great- they’re built from coils or slabs and finished with glazes, paint and sometimes even markers, something which I found fun and fresh within the traditions of ceramics. I try to channel this improvisation while handbuilding and I do not let functionality get in the way of the form and finish. I never know what the finished piece will look like when I begin the work, which is entirely the opposite of how I begin a painting.

Day 10 (Marfa) - acrylic & sand on canvas - 2020

Your paintings merge deep spaces with flat, precise geometries. Can you tell us more about this relationship?

This relationship developed out of my own tendency to crave abstraction while creating figurative work. I have always been interested in material explorations, alternative paint application processes, and textural experimentation. In undergrad I was very inspired by Bridget Riley and the op art movement. While I was a senior, I wanted to paint abstractly, but I was struggling to find my voice within this language and to find imagery that I felt strongly connected to. After graduating, I began to paint landscapes and draw inspiration from family photographs.

The pairing of these two interests, geometric abstraction and landscape painting, seem to occur naturally; I like that the paintings play tricks with false depth and perspective by utilizing hard edges and flat smooth gradients. By creating visual illusions with color and edge, I use this language to point out illusions that we can create in our memory in relation to place and moment.

Tulip Basket - ceramic - 2019

Texture and surface, both within your paintings and ceramic vessels, carry soft and dynamic gradients. Tell us about the conceptual weight of these soft horizons and transitions.

All the gradients within my work represent the sky and are executed with an airbrush. I have found that using textures and an airbrush allow the painting or ceramic to form and create itself. What I mean by this, is that instead of me rendering the textures of clouds or ocean with a paintbrush and paint, I create a texture with sand or clay and use the airbrush to act like sunlight hitting these elements. By directionally spraying with an airbrush, the forms and textures are brought out in a way that seems to mimic nature successfully.

Pink Sky (In Wassaic) - acrylic & sand on digitally-printed chiffon - 2019

Tell us about your facility in moving between two and three dimensions, between plane and form. How do you arrive at decisions regarding the format of particular works?

I have been told that I approach painting like a sculptor and that I approach ceramics like a painter. I have the tendency to want to blur the boundaries between painting and sculpture. I think about my paintings as objects and not windows into illusionistic space. The object itself is creating an illusion with texture, edges, and color. I use the frame to activate the edges of the canvas and to remind the viewer of the painting's objecthood. Like holding a photograph, I want the paintings to be felt in this way.

I work simultaneously on the ceramics and the paintings. Both bodies of work respond to landscape, light, and organic forms and they are meant to complement each other when shown together.