19th August, 2016
This month we’re meeting Sarah Sharpe
Where are you from/based now?
I'm from and still live in Sheffield.
Tell us about your work
I am a painter and printmaker.
Can you describe how and why your career as an artist began?
As a child, I was always at my happiest making and creating, be that painting, sewing or cooking, I have always felt that I was a ‘maker’ of things. When I was very young, our next door neighbour, Nellie, let me use her oil paints and I remember being totally absorbed in the alchemy of it. I was in awe of the little bottles of potions and vivid pigments. I went to an art club at the Graves Gallery in Sheffield up to the age of 11 and remember loving the atmosphere of this world, however I didn't study art at college until I was in my late 30’s and by that time I had qualified as a Nurse and a Counsellor and had three children. It was during my counselling years that I began to realise that I needed to become an artist. I had never stopped making and creating during my 20’s and 30’s but didn't have the confidence to think that I could actually be an artist. A Sheffield based artist, Margaret Young, gave me that confidence to go ahead and study fine art after I had spent a year attending her watercolour classes. Whilst at college, it was Peter York, a Sheffield Printmaker who introduced to me the wonderful world of fine art printmaking.
What / who inspires you? Is there anyone specific that inspires you – either from the arts world, or on a personal level?
I’ve given up trying to think what inspires me….I could just repeat my carefully worded artist statement to you, but I won’t! People inspire me....their personal stories. Sometimes it can be just a quick by chance conversation with a stranger, or it could be a poem that touches the soul or a painting in a gallery that for some reason I am just drawn to. If I look back at my work, I think I try to capture contemplative moments in past and present lives, of predominately women, because women’s stories inspire me. I love to imagine what a character might have felt, or looked like. I have to work with my imagination and try and work from my own understanding of emotion. What has become apparent over the years, is the significance of the gaze in my work. I have to make sure I get the gaze right almost as if the eyes are telling the story. I try to capture that ‘stillpoint’ moment that we can all experience. Nature also plays a huge part and informs my work in an indirect way. I have also learnt to respect my intuition and I like nothing more than trying to let my mind go blank and trust that something is going to emerge.
What's your typical working environment?
I am presently half way through a year long project called ‘Analysis of the Woods’ which fellow artist Kay Aitch and I are immersed in. We spend at least one full day a week in Ecclesall Woods, Sheffield, working. This week I was casting faces; digging into the earth to create the image and pouring plaster of paris into the earth mould. I’m not sure if I will directly use the cast faces, but I do know that I will be informed by them and therefore they will be used indirectly…or maybe they will be used directly. If I am not in the woods I am in my messy studio and invariably taking over the whole house, often cooking along-side my art making. Somehow these two activities seem to work together....
Do you attend exhibitions? when was the last one you attended?
I love going to exhibitions and shows and try to see as many as I can. I was in Manchester recently dropping off a painting and called into the Manchester Art Gallery. There was an exhibition called ‘Goodbye To All That’, a display of First World War Art, I was very moved by the whole exhibition, but the Lithographs of Eric Kennington particularly caught my attention. I love it when after you have been to an exhibition, or you have been drawn into a particular work, the memory of it stays with you for a good while.
As an artist, what challenges do you face, and how do you overcome them?
I feel very led by the creative spirit, it is just something that I have to do...it informs my life really. It took me many years to get to this point, to allow myself to do what I do. Creating art is such a personal, solitary experience, which I could easily do all day, every day, however, there is another side, the business side to it, something that I am not particularly good at! At home, I am also the carer of my now adult middle child who is brain injured. Whilst this has been a huge personal challenge over the years, it has also been instrumental in my becoming an artist and has made me live in a world that I would not have freely chosen, but that has given me so many riches and so I feel very blessed. Without doubt , this has influenced my work over the years.
How would others describe you?
In another world.