At this year’s New English Art Club Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London, Jackson’s Art Supplies were proud to sponsor a prize. The Jackson’s Art Prize was awarded to the best work in the show by a non- NEAC member. Sharron Astbury-Petit’s ‘Hanabi’ stood out for its gorgeous palette and delicate, understated handling of paint. The composition has a timeless elegance that celebrates the female form. I interviewed Sharron Astbury-Petit to find out more about her artwork.
LT: How would you describe your current studio practice?
SA-P: I have always preferred my studio to be close to the heart of my home, a place from where – though apart – I can still feel the pulse of family life going on around me as I work.
It is the still point at the centre of my universe. A cool, calm, space scented by pencil shavings, where I can research, experiment, dream and create.
It is a space I inhabit daily (and where my first cup of tea is often drunk while tinkering), though the length of time I spend there varies greatly, depending on deadlines, mood, the time of year (I work only in natural light) and the stage of my current work.
LT: How did you develop the composition for ‘Hanabi’?
SA-P:I enjoy conveying mood, atmosphere and meaning through colour, background pattern and the pose of my model. I then heighten emotional intensity through cropping decisions which frequently leave my subjects intentionally anonymous.
Hanabi is a comment on female middle age and was inspired by my love of fireworks and the joyful discovery that the evocative translation of this word into Japanese is ‘hanabi’ or fire flower. A word which spoke to me of burning embers glowing in the darkness. Of passion and unquenchable fires. Of the glorious rising of the phoenix. I wanted this painting to glow.
LT: ‘Hanabi’ was painted using acrylic, graphite and coloured pencil. A really interesting combination of materials – can you describe how you applied them – did you work with all 3 simultaneously or were they applied in layers?
SA-P: Though I occasionally work in various media simultaneously, I prefer to apply them in layers with pauses for thought and evaluation in between. I enjoy experimenting with the layering of different substances and the effects that this can create. It is also very important to me that the grain and texture of the wood panels I paint on play an active role in the finished effect.
LT: A lot of your work combines pattern with the female form. What impact do you think the presence of repeat patterns have on the emotional content of your work?
SA-P: I feel that the juxtaposition of tight, repetitive detail increases emotional intensity, focus and acts as a counterpoint, emphasising the form and line of the subject.
The background patterns also frequently contain relevant symbolic content.
LT: Would you describe your work as spiritual? And would you describe the act of painting as being a spiritual act?
SA-P: I am fascinated by the relationship of the mundane with the divine and often explore this through my work. The act of painting in itself can also be very meditational: those glorious times when the creative process takes over from conscious decision making and you lose yourself in your work.
LT: There is a lot of symbolism in your work. How important is it to you that viewers of your work understand the symbolism present in it?
SA-P: I prefer that viewers should take what they will from my work, and feel that a painting should work on many levels. I do like to understand the symbolism inherent in my subject matter myself though, and research is always an enjoyable part of my creative process. I like to fully comprehend the story I am telling, and explore its’ undercurrents; what lies beneath the surface.
LT: Are the women in your paintings real women, or icons?
SA-P: A lot of my work is concerned with what it is to be a woman, so it’s important to me that my models are real people. My paintings are always based upon women I know well; who I feel in some way exemplify the theme. So I suppose, then, that they are both real and icons!
LT: You spent a long time living in France but have now returned to the UK. How did this move affect your painting and the ideas that concerned you most?
SA-P: When I moved to France, the difference in light and its’ effects on colour intensity made a great impression on me and this was instantly reflected in my work. I also found that my work gradually increased in size and became more bold and experimental. Since my return, I find that I am now honing and embellishing these new skills.
LT: What artistic plans do you have for the immediate future?
SA-P: Becoming increasingly drawn to explore my reaction to both the Northern urban landscape and to the vast wildness of the nearby moors, I am currently beginning work on a triptych which responds to this.
LT: Where online or in the flesh can we see more of your work?
SA-P: In addition to the New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2018 which is now viewable online , I am also currently exhibiting in the Exposition North show in the Crossley Gallery at Dean Clough in Halifax (11 June – 14 July). I also have work selected for the Left Bank Leeds Art Prize Exhibition (18-21 July) at the Left Bank in Leeds. I hope then to have work in the French Salon d’Automne on the Champs Elysées, Paris (25 – 28 October) and in the Time and Place exhibition in the Inspired by…Gallery at The Moors National Park Centre, Danby, North Yorkshire (20 October – 13 November).
My work can also be seen online at:
The image shown at the top:
‘La Femme aux Chardons‘ by Sharron Astbury-Petit
Acrylic, graphite and colour pencil on poplar panel, 107 x 141 cm, 2010