Sarah Sparkes
Contemporary Art Space announces Fate and Freewill, an exhibition of UK and USA artists, with text written by Martin Holman.
Private View opening October 17, 2009, 6:30 – 9:00 pm.
Contemporary Art Space is a nontraditional venue for art in Riverside, CA.

fate and freewill
This will be the second show at CAS following David Leapman’s solo show Whispering Sprinkles in September 2008. Fate and Freewill showcases young and established artists from the UK and USA: Lee Tusman, Sarah Sparkes, Hannah Schwadron, James Reilly, Danny Rolph, David Leapman, Stuart Elliot, Daniel Sturgis, and Jessica Snow. The exhibit features 4 West Coast US artists and 5 British artists in a range of media, including performance art, painting, installation, and fabric art.
The theme of the exhibition is inspired by the eternal question of whether human action is a result of fate or freewill. From a philosophical point of view, there’s no scientific proof whether an action has been made by fate or freewill despite centuries of dispute by philosophers and religious scholars. The artists in the exhibit explore this duality and begin to ponder the implications of the question.

Fate and Freewill opens October 17 and remains open by appointment until November 14. For more information on the exhibit and artists, visit

For more information, contact Artist and Curator David Leapman.
for what we are about to receive by sarah sparkes 2009

Catalogue essay for 'Fate and Freewill'

“Who’s in charge here” by Martin Holman

Who’s in charge here?
A new essay by Martin Holman
“The lot of critics is to be remembered by what they failed to understand.”
—G.E. Moore (1873-1958), British philosopher
and author of A Defence of Common Sense (1925)

Fate and free will. These concepts are not taken lightly. How could they be? Drill the enamel shielding these words and pretty quickly the porous dentin of philosophical debate gives way to the sensitive root of why we do what we do, and how far we own up to that. The exposed connective tissue between them emits the jabbing ache of pure paradox. If not treated lightly, then how seriously? “We’re doomed,” pronounced Private Frazer at the first scent of trouble from air, land or sea, his glaring eyes gazing into the unknown far-off. He was the dour Scots mortician-cum-home guardsman in Dad’s Army, the classic 1960s BBC television sitcom about Britain’s redoubtable WW2 militia of old men and youths.
History proves we were not doomed then. But the fictional character spawned a catchphrase that still raises chuckles of recognition on a British street corner. Trust the mass media to make humorous the theological view that God foreknows and predetermines the outcome of all things. And trust the English to find in Calvin a source of mirth.
There’s a work by the British artist Sarah Sparkes that raises the spectre of predestination, and (involuntarily) of Private Frazer’s portentous thousand-yard stare. A lace-rimmed, delicately-worked place mat is embroidered in gothic script with the omen “We are all doomed.” And, for good measure and compositional balance, the phrase is repeated.
“We’re doomed” , Private Frazer played by actor John Laurie - Dad’s Army, BBC television, 1 968-77
Only that Sparkes mixes the dark with the light. The mat is actually a plastic imitation, dyestamped in a factory, and the words are painted. It imitates the sort of domestic embellishment thought “proper” since Victorian times to protect furniture valued or cherished on account of its cost or provenance from spills and marks. What its painted incantation proclaims its decoration tries to inhibit. Handcraft to ward off, to “daintify” the inevitable into a familiar old saw, like one traded half in jest— “if the wind changes you’ll stay like that”. We know the wind will not change us irrevocably: by mouthing the warning, we give destiny the slip.
Yet there it is, projected with modest means, an artwork that illuminates the “big question”: the paradox of fate and free will. The force within this deceptively simple work is its arresting tension. Sparkes’s For what we are about to receive invokes the table graces that offer thanks to God. It interrogates the evolution of prayer into an insurance policy that acknowledges that His grace rules. But are we okay with that? Is the future causally determined, or can our desires, feelings, motives and threats determine our actions? How free are our choices? Perhaps nowhere is this subversive, question more pointed in its asking than in art, an activity defined by my Chambers Dictionary as a “practical skill guided by principles … human skill and agency, opposed to nature”. Ah, nature. If I were of an incompatibilist frame of mind (and I will stress the “if” in that phrase), I would insist that nature is governed by strict laws, such as we see all around us, and leaves no room for genuine freedom. That’s Newtonian mechanics for you, and so much for art.
Sarah Sparkes For what we are about to receive 2009
Not surprisingly, therefore, art in the secular twentieth century and since has argued by the force of development for the falsity of the thesis of predetermination. By and large, progressive artists have not been strict Calvinists; they have been individuals who have responded enthusiastically to the role of subversive. Maybe because they were made that way.

read full text here:

REVIEW | Puppet or Puppet Master? from the Inland Empire, Los Angeles

“Fate and Freewill” show asks who’s pulling the strings

By: Lynn Lieu

At a crossroads in life, do you proceed left or right—take the blue pill or the red—travel on the road most taken or tread off the beaten path? It is this notion behind Abraham Cohen’s Everyman’s Talmud that inspired David Leapman’s paintings for Contemporary Art Space’s current exhibition, “Fate and Freewill.” Curated by Leapman and displayed in the most unlikely of spaces, Leapman’s home, the aptly-titled exhibit embodies the long debated philosophical issue: Whatever your decision, whichever road you take, are you guided by an unseen hand or is your choice purely of your own accord—are you led by fate or free will?

.... In For What We Are About to Receive, Sarah Sparkes also struggles with the inevitable “consumption” by the predetermined ending, as stated in her artist statement: “ . . . we will all be consumed.” The table runner with repeatedly printed words, “We are all doomed,” juxtaposes fabrics of domesticity and reminds us that despite the free will of fabric choices, there may be another factor contributing to the outcome of our lives and leaves the question lingering of how free our choices really are.

read full review here