Skip to main content
Painting (MA)

Sabrina Shah

Game Over?

And trust me, I have been playing the long game, here at the RCA, reaching new highs and new lows. I remember presenting work in containers as part of my learning during Covid, folders of inspiration, photos. Now it’s online.

During the LockDown there was a lot of commentary that we would ‘build back better’, a new normal. While everyone has their own story from the last three years, I haven’t seen this bright new dawn, but I have realised how much I took for granted before. I wasn’t content, yet things were much easier.

My early work was about greed, over-eating, eating disorders and never feeling full. But my work has been changing. I have lost some of the functioning in my hands through a series of abuses. I don’t want the pain to define me, but it has become my truth and for me painting has always been a mixture of my truth, my story and what I would like to see. 

I took a break from my degree during Covid because in my heart I know painting is physical and tangible. I just felt too much expectation, greed and disappointment. It hurt me to take a leave of absence. I still belief that painting has to be seen/witnessed; this will not change, but as for being in the studio, the best studio, my own studio, friendship and peer group also matter. Sometimes in my work there is subconscious marks about cycles of power and abuse, the inevitable, the way our parents’ behaviour maybe haunting us.

Professional: I won the Castlegate prize for a painting about hope. I’m drawn to all things to do with mental health and aspiring to achieve our ultimate purpose. I was funded by the Leverhulme Trust for part of my degree and I have exhibited at The John Moores. I love painting. I love the way it is ok for things not to go together. I love the way it is ok do whatever you want. 

Painting keeps me safe by allowing me to explore the unsafe places. Without thinking but with feeling.

Well played everyone. Play On?

Show Location: Battersea campus: Painting Building, First floor

In my paintings, subject and process are intimately connected and unmaking allows for slippage and collision–holding a mirror to contemporary culture’s aversion to imperfection by laying bare desire and tension. I'm interested in the history of the surface, while resisting a final finished surface. 

The shadow of complex home environments and enmeshed cultures loom over my work, which explores the intractability of trauma in human relationships. My father is from Pakistan, my mother is Chinese.

Physical pain–and the unseen and unacknowledged centrality it wields over a female life–is embodied deeply within my practice. I find that fear–and the embrace of fear–increasingly figure in my paintings. Fear is the inevitable flip-side of pain, both a consequence and a warning. An acknowledgment of that fear is threaded through my work.

I am curious about people, animals, food, celebration and human behaviour. The trapped figures that populate my work are looking at those who are looking at them, searching for answers. I want my paintings to invite you to look, to really take a close and honest look.

Photograph: @joncarchdeacon

Jack out of the Box130cm x 150cm_Oil and Acrylic on Canvas_2021
Mostly EdibleAcrylic and Sand on Canvas, 40cm x 40cm, 2022
Ice Cream VanPhoto, 2021
CrabbyArrange Objects, 2022
Piece or Peace?Photo, 2022

Toys Helping me make sense of Reality


Paintings and Photos
Lockdown MessPhoto_2021
Spill the BeansCollage and Paint on Paper, 120cm x 60cm, 2020
CannibleOil and Acrylic on Canvas, 60cm x 50cm, 2020
Life's CyleAcrylic and Collage on Canvas, 80cm x 80cm, 2021
Angel FaceAcrylic and Photo on Paper, 30cm x 40cm, 2022


Chicken40cm x 25cm, Oil and Acrylic on Board, 2020
St.Johns The Baptist ChurchStations of the Cross (entrance to my studio!?) Photo, 2021
Bucket List!115cm x 85cm, oil and acrylic on Canvas,2021

Forget Everything And Run

Face Everything And Rise

False Evidence Appearing Real

Hot and ColdAcrylic on Board, 33cm x 40cm, 2022
Self TalkAcrylic on Board, 30cm x 35cm, 2020
Christmas - Again?Photo, 2020
PriestlyAcrylic on Board, 34cm x 45cm, 2021

Still working out what to write in here under the idea of Pain Management. But these are some drawings with paint!

Meat FreeCollage and Acrylic on Paper, 30cm x 40cm, 2021
BonerPhoto, 2019
Happy TimesPaint Marker and Paint on Photo, 30cm x 40cm, 2022
Gone out Fighting (without a Tail!)Acrylic Paint and Tissue Paper on Canvas_120cm x 90cm_2022

Detachment is fundamental to my painting process.