Behind The Scenes: Sarah Wiseman Gallery

 In Indie Oxford Interviews

Next month, the Sarah Wiseman Gallery on South Parade in North Oxford, will host a new exhibition ‘Twilight’ by Ade Adesina from 7th -28th March 2020. In this thought-provoking show of large-scale prints, Ade will exhibit recent prints which will include works from collaborations with other acclaimed artists such as June Carey and David Mach.

Ade Adesina’s monumental lino-cut prints juxtapose motifs, such as the baobab tree, as well as buildings and bridges from cities around the world, to pieces of oil-extraction infrastructure from his home in Aberdeen. These complex works are a commentary on the human impact on earth. His visions are surreal and dream-like; in his prints he has turned the earth on its head with fish swimming through the air, scorched deserts scattered with sinking ships. He says that;

‘Issues such as pollution, climate change, religion, endangered species, human survival and adaptation are things that I have always focused on in my work.’

‘I work in a very strange way. Every print, sculpture or painting owns a story; it is like reading a novel. There are different characters coming in at different chapters. I don’t find it interesting knowing where a piece of work is going to end before I begin. I can start on the earth and end on the moon. What I enjoy most includes not knowing what direction a piece of work is going.’

Ade Adesina was born in Nigeria in 1980, and studied at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. He is one of the youngest ever Royal Scottish Academicians (elected 2017) where he has had a recent solo exhibition ‘Aurora’ in the Academician’s Gallery.

Before this new solo exhibition, Sarah Wiseman Gallery first worked with Ade in March 2019, when he exhibited a collection of works alongside Karólína Lárusdóttir in her solo exhibition ‘Wondrous Happenings.’

Today we catch up with Sarah to find out more about the solo exhibition, the set up process, and why she loves chatting to artists on the WiseGal Podcast. >>

Tell us about how you discovered Ade.

Ade came to my attention initially through two clients who suggested I should look at his work. I liked it very much and he stayed on my radar. However in 2018, Sarah Lacey who works at the gallery suggested him for an artist in focus in our 2019 exhibition programme. The 2019 focus was a successful small collection shown in the lower gallery and now we are moving onto the ambitious solo show in March this year.

Ade Adesina Sarah Wiseman Oxford

Why did you choose to exhibit his work?

Ade Adesina has a powerful artistic vision, he stands in awe of the world and all its majesty. He is unafraid to challenge us with his view of the world, to make us question our habits and assumptions. He does this whilst encapsulating the beauty of all that is around him in stark black and white.

His works are technical masterpieces. His medium is printmaking often large scale lino cuts, printed as a single sheet, some of which measure up to 180 x 110 cm, which for print making is huge!

It felt important to me to show his work and share his vision, as I personally really admire it. We planned the solo exhibition ‘Twilight’ in which we will exhibit a larger body of his personal work alongside collaborations with other artists.

Ade Adesina Sarah Wiseman Oxford

When did you start planning the exhibition?

We generally start working a year ahead for each exhibition, but with this show it was under 6 months.

Tell us about the set up process for the exhibition.

There are many individual parts that come together to make an exhibition. It starts with the work the artist does in the studio and the work the gallery does with the artist curating the show. Alongside this is the marketing and logistics for the exhibition all of which happens before the actual art work comes into the gallery for display. A lot goes on beforehand and the hanging of the show is the icing on the cake. We then host a private view, an event to celebrate the artist’s accomplishment, see the exhibition and socialise with the artist.

Ade Adesina Sarah Wiseman Oxford

How much time do you have between exhibitions?

Most of the time around 2-3 weeks. During this time the gallery is open and we have a group exhibition up, it is a chance for artists to show new pieces and exhibit ideas they are developing.

What are your plans for the gallery this year?

Late last year we started ‘The WiseGal Podcast’ to add to the exhibition experience and I am really proud of the results so far. In 2020 we plan to record more podcasts with our artists. I started the year recording the second episode with Mychael Barratt for his solo exhibition ‘Hidden Histories’. You can listen here: or find us on Itunes (search The Wisegal Podcast).

The wonderful thing about the podcast is that the artists are relaxed and comfortable talking to me about their work, so the listener gets the best from them. Often the artist gets into talking and forgets that we are recording and the result is a really authentic experience of the artist discussing their work.

Episode 3 will be with Ade Adesina for the ‘Twilight’ exhibition and I am really looking forward to recording it.

Ade Adesina Sarah Wiseman Oxford

Where do you find inspiration for your exhibitions?

The artists that we represent are a constant source of inspiration. I work closely with them, keeping in touch with what is going on in the studio and considering what to plan next, be it a solo exhibition, project, or a group show. I look outwards too and am culturally very engaged, always looking at art, learning about new artists, visiting exhibitions, all of which feeds into the exhibition programme.

What themes are prevalent in the art world at the moment?

Women artists are really taking centre stage at the moment. We are seeing fantastic exhibitions being staged for older artists whose work is being given long awaited recognition, such as Hedda Sterne (1910-2011) currently showing at the Victoria Miro Gallery. Hedda was an active member of the New York School, creating an extensive body of work that intersected with some of the most important movements and figures of the twentieth century.

As a gallerist I am very much aware of this and whilst all our programming is based on artistic merit, last year I can proudly say that all our solo exhibitions were for women artists.

Which UK exhibitions would you recommend seeing this year?

Oh the list could get very long!  I will do a very short spring highlights!

Starting locally I recommend seeing Johanna Unzueta’s ‘Tools for Life’ at Modern Art Oxford – which is on now. Later this year MAO will have a solo exhibition by Anish Kapoor opening in September 2020 – a real highlight for the museum and the city!

Further afield, Grayson Perry ‘The Pre-Therapy Years’ in Bath at the Holburne Museum is on my list, I am a huge fan of his work.

The big block buster exhibition which has us all very excited at the gallery is Artemisia Gentileschi at the National Gallery opening on 4th April. It is the must see exhibition of the year! Artemisia is one of the few women artists recognised for her work during her lifetime, which in the 17th Century is an incredible achievement. Her personal story is as historically important as the incredible paintings she created.

Sarah Wiseman Gallery is the largest independent gallery space in Oxford and has built a strong reputation for ambitious and engaging exhibitions of contemporary art by established, as well as emerging artists. Director Sarah Wiseman opened the gallery in 1998 and it was quickly established as a leading space for contemporary art in Oxford. Sarah has sought out a varied group of artists with an eye to individuality and technical accomplishment, reflecting her passion and commitment to contemporary art.

The breadth of artists Sarah and the team work with reflects the diversity of their clients, who range from experienced art collectors to those intending to make their first art purchase. They aim to enthuse visitors with a variety of artwork in a spacious, relaxed setting and to encourage engagement with contemporary art.

The gallery is situated on South Parade in Summertown amongst other independent boutiques and restaurants including Pompette & Grape Minds.

We love visiting the gallery when we’re in Summertown, as Sarah and the team are always keen to welcome people into the space, to browse, engage and be inspired by the artists they work with.

Love, Rosie


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