WIA discuss art and life with Sharon Drew who is WIA featured artist. Drew lives and works in London and was recently London Borough of Culture Artist-in-Residence at One Hoe Street, Waltham Forest. She has previously completed two residencies at Trinity Buoy Wharf Docklands. Central London Shows include Immersion at William Road Gallery/John McAslan + Partners; The Place; Manifesto and Fitzrovia Gallery; Third Space Tower Bridge with Rebecca Hossack Gallery and T5 Gallery at Terminal 5, London Heathrow.
WIA: What are you doing today?
Sharon Drew: Out on the North Cornish Coast painting watercolour landscape studies in my sketchbook
WIA: Tell us about your creative process.
SD: Being immersed in a particular landscape can create a sense of connection that I try to rediscover in the studio. I travel to places such as the Thames foreshore and coasts of Cornwall and Kent and revel in exposure to weather, expansive skies, tides and turbulent water. I make sketches in oil or watercolour to help observe and absorb the moment. Back in my studio I don’t often refer to these studies but draw upon memory. When working on my abstract paintings I am trying to find a visual metaphor for the sensation of momentum and shifting light, rather than depict a particular place.
WIA: Describe where you do most of your creative work.
SD: My studio at the end of my garden is surrounded by an oak, silver birch trees and mixed hedgerows. Despite living in East London it feels almost rural and I love sense of seclusion and being cut off from the outside world.
WIA: What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
SD: My most recent solo show Immersion, Euston, London at the exhibition space of international architects John McAslan & Partners. It was a great opportunity to produce a new body of work, exploring multiple paintings to create scale and encourage an immersive sensation.
WIA: What made you decide to become an artist?
SD: When a good friend was accepted as a mature student onto an Art Foundation she made me realise this was a possibility. We both enjoyed making art, we had worked in a building society together for a few years and both had two young children. At 30 I was a single parent and in the middle of a big life change, I decided to apply. Art School was a complete revelation and awakening … my life was turned upside down or maybe the right way round? I immediately realised this is where I should have been all along.
WIA: What are you currently working on?
Multiple paintings, similar in size and appearance with large repetitive gestural loops. The palette is minimal – in this case a translucent light rose-cream painted over a cadmium red or crimson ground resulting in a much subtler range of hazy pinks. I enjoy the rhythm of the imagery and the illusion of space which continues across one painting to another. I also like the flexibility this modular approach offers as the number of works can be adapted to fit different sized venues from galleries and public spaces to smaller, more intimate domestic interiors.
WIA: Do you listen to music while you work, and if so, what’s your soundtrack?
SD: I particularly enjoy high energy music when I am building up to more active painting. As in art I tend to prefer more abstract compositions with few lyrics or where the voice is more about sounds than words. I’m always listening out for a creative use of space, structure, rhythm and harmony, so it might be Radiohead, Philip Glass, Bruckner or other times say Bjork or Aldous Harding.
WIA: What are the key themes in your work?
SD: An ongoing exploration of light, rhythm, repetition and movement.
WIA: What would you like people to notice in your work?
Hopefully that my paintings bring an energy and vitality into a space. Also that titles such as Gathering Momentum and Over and Above invite personal interpretations of the works.
WIA: What attracts you to the mediums you work in?
A painted canvas can be physical, tactile, seductive and even more alluring in this digital age where so much time is spent looking at screens. I enjoy the sensuous applications, colour intensities and consistencies of acrylic paint and particularly translucence, opacity and fluidity when blending colours ‘wet-into-wet’. Acrylics are practical as well as emotional with fast drying times – just hours or days are needed rather than the weeks or months of oil paint. Also it’s great that they are water based so no harmful solvents required to dilute or clean.
WIA: What equipment could you not do without?
SD: Large flat and round brushes, a long table plus a music system
WIA: Who or what inspires you?
SD: Big seas and skies and weather. Abstract Expressionist/Action Painters
WIA: How does gender affect your work?
SD: Most art is autobiographical in some sense reflecting character and the life lived. It is important female artists are visible. We need good role-models and to realise that the life of the artist is also a female domain.
WIA: What’s your favourite gallery, or place to see or experience art?
SD: The Tate has done much to bring art to a mass audience, before Tate Modern opened in May 2000 visiting art galleries was a much more niche and exclusive activity.
WIA: If you could own one piece of art, what would it be and why?
SD: Door to the River 1960 by Willem DeKooning. I love the sensuous handling of the paint – the energy and confidence of the broad brushstrokes and blending of layers … it would set me up for the day to see it every morning.
WIA: If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be, and why?
SD: I’ve always thought details of my paintings could work really well as repeat-patterns for fashion or interior fabric designs. My dream partner would be a fashion/textile designer who enjoys colour and a painterly approach …. Is anyone out there?!
WIA: Is there an artist, movement or collective you’d like to see re-evaluated, or a contemporary artist who is underrated?
SD: The brilliant painter Alexis Harding is hugely rated by artists and I cannot understand why he has not been snapped up by one of the blue-chip galleries by now.
WIA: What’s your favourite colour
SD: Impossible to answer! I change my mind on a daily basis and of course there are endless versions of each colour.
Sharon was Art Consultant and provider of paintings for Art Is… a British musical feature film, directed by Barry Bliss and screened at Tate Modern and international film festivals and has paintings on M.A.H – MODERN ART HIRE for hire for film shoots and television.
Sharon completed her Fine Art MA at Central Saint Martins in 2003 where she is now a mentor to Fine Art MA and BA students. Previously a tutor in Art & Design for over 20 years she has more recently been running art workshops at her studio, One Hoe Street, William Morris Gallery and University of East London. Sharon’s work is in private collections in Germany and throughout the UK.
facebook: Sharon Drew
Immersion 2019 Catalogue (Solo Show)