Meet the Artist: Sarah Walpole

by David Donno in


We are lucky enough to have Brighton based artist Sarah Walpole exhibiting her work as part of the NINE exhibition, which goes on until the 30th September 2015. It is impossible to forget the subtle-yet-striking colours of this artists work (which incidentally appear to coincide with the striking yet subtle colours of the artist herself!), the delicate shapes she paints and the way she is able to translate deep and different moods onto canvas. The Naked Eye Gallery were intrigued to get to know the artist behind the artwork...

What is the role of the artist in society?

'A Piece of Dark Came to Stay' - Sarah Walpole

'A Piece of Dark Came to Stay' - Sarah Walpole

SW: Ultimately it’s about encouraging people to think and consider issues, reflect on their current environment & those of others. Generating different emotions in people of all walks of life: shocking, scaring, giving joy and visualising beauty- it all has its place- we all need different things at different times. Its most important role is in opening peoples minds to other ways of seeing, if just one piece of mine achieved that, i would be a happy bunny. 

How has your art evolved? How do you see it evolving in the future?

SW: I used to work more literally & obviously, so with time and maturity, I’m a lot more subtle now. I have always really enjoyed the journey of a piece and the layers that it encompasses. From initial sketches, through to painting, and then covering it again and again, until it is saying exactly what I want it to. I doubt that process will ever change, but it may take on a simpler form possibly? That would be a interesting avenue. 

In terms of the form the work takes, I would really like to get back to installations again. I used to create this way as a carefree student, and loved being able to immerse the viewer entirely into a work and breathe what is happening. This was because we had the space to exhibit exactly what you wished and without restriction. Now, unfortunately my work production is inhibited by the size of my studio, the commerciality of individual pieces and of course the availability of space to showcase it, but it is something I’d love to pursue, given the right circumstances.

What are your tips for aspiring artists?

SW: It's so different today what with Instagram, Twitter and other such social media. You have to be very brand aware and savvy in marketing yourself. I kind of eschew from this, as I don’t want to throw my work in peoples faces and ask for adulation or whatever. It doesn’t help in making yourself a presence in the art world but it’s the way I work.  I’d be happy producing work until I can no longer, no matter what the consequences for how ‘successful’ it appears to the outside world. Its the process of creating that is important. When it's my time, I’ll probably end up leaving a warehouse of hundreds of works, like a diary of my existence..actually that would be an interesting exhibition.

In your opinion, what makes a memorable piece of art?

SW: It has to hit you instantly, whether that be aesthetically or by being highly emotive. The Sensation exhibition in the 90’s really did that for me. It was the first time I had been to the Royal Academy and there had been so much controversy about the show, so I was approaching it with great intrigue and unsure about how I would feel. Of course I experienced disgust, despair & repulsion at some of the pieces, but also amazement and interest in some of the topics raised and the fact that a piece of art can garner such a reaction. That these pieces could bring about so much controversy and discourse is amazing.

'Can't Magic a Spell to Help a Current Situation' - Sarah Walpole

'Can't Magic a Spell to Help a Current Situation' - Sarah Walpole

Where do you find your inspiration?

SW: It all stems from emotions I am feeling and the circumstances that I find myself in at a particular time. Friendships, relationships, experiences past & present all influence the mark making, shapes, texture and form the pieces take. I guess that is why I don’t market myself all that well, to follow up from the earlier question, as it is all so personal and revealing. Like a tiny piece of me up there on the wall.

What artists have inspired you?

SW: Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Tracey Emin, Egon Schiele, Jean-Michel Basquiat & Jean Dubuffet.

What is your favourite medium to work with?

SW: Acrylic paint, mostly because of its fast drying properties as I like to scratch into it smudge and smooth. But my pieces usually involve lots of other mediums too such as pen, pencils, oil crayon, torn papers etc. It's the collection and sum of all those little elements that makes it into something important and substantial - a body so to speak.

I love the shapes you use in your work - is there any specific meaning to them or do you prefer to leave it to the viewer to interpret?

SW: A lot of the circular shapes are representative of people or figures within my life. Whether they are positive or negative, they shape who you are and the path your life takes, so it is an important reference in my work. Equally though, a lot of viewers have commented they resemble flower forms which is equally as valid. For people to see alternative things in a piece or to experience a different feeling to the one i am expressing, is no bad thing.  Just simply it's the beauty with art, that it can be so many things to so many people, and interpreted in anyway, shape or form. If it reaches you, feel it.