Artist Charlotte Sorapure is one of the guest judges for Jackson’s Art Prize 2024. In this interview, she tells us about her painting practice, her proudest achievement, and why she thinks art prizes and competitions are important for artists today.
Interview with Charlotte Sorapure
Josephine: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
Charlotte: My name is Charlotte Sorapure and I’m an artist living and working in Bath in Somerset. There are two strands to my paintings. I work a lot from observation, but also from imagination, and I find that those two different ways of working actually influence and support each other. It’s important for me that my paintings have some sort of poetic awareness and really to encourage people to stop and pause and hopefully recognise something that they see– a moment, an atmosphere, or a mood. Ultimately artists are trying to capture something that makes people conscious of the world around them in a way that they haven’t been before. I tend to work in oil paints because it’s the most versatile and forgiving. It allows you to work over things, and actually the surface of a painting improves with oil paint. The more you work over it, I find you can get interesting textures and surfaces.
Josephine: What have been your proudest achievements in your career?
Charlotte: Well, it’s an achievement just to keep going really, as an artist. It’s quite a difficult life and occupation to have chosen. One of my proudest achievements was a portrait commission that I did for the Holburne Museum in Bath. It was of the war photographer Don McCullin, and our conversations during the portrait sittings were fascinating. He had a passion for painting, particularly Caravaggio because of his fascination with the quality of light and chiaroscuro, so we found that we actually had quite a lot in common. He had so many amazing stories and insights, and often when you do things like that you get to meet people that you would never normally encounter. So that was quite a privilege, really.
Josephine: Who are the artists or artworks, and exhibitions you’ve been most inspired by this past year?
Charlotte: I think the best exhibition I’ve seen this year was the Vermeer exhibition in Amsterdam at the Rijks Museum. I was lucky enough to get tickets for that. Vermeer is somebody who manages to both surprise you and reward you. And at the same time, you never really get to discover his secrets. He’s still very mysterious. No matter how many scientists analyze his paintings, he’s still an awe inspiring artist. And also there was a very good exhibition of Frans Hals at the National Gallery, and I thought I knew how his paintings, but again, they’re full of surprises. And it was very, very interesting exhibition. Everyone’s seen The Laughing Cavalier and you think you know his paintings, but actually they’re sort of beautifully subtle. And the characterization of the of the portraits, the people, they’re so alive. I think that he’s somebody that most people just take for granted. But actually, there’s a lot to learn from Frans Hals and both in the way he paints and his understanding of people and empathy towards sitters.
Josephine: How important do you think awards and competitions are for artists today?
Charlotte: I think awards and prizes like the Jackson’s Art Prize are very important for artists because we all need encouragement. As well as a bit of money, which is always helpful, there’s an opportunity to exhibit which can make a meaningful difference especially if you’re somebody who’s just starting out. For any artist it’s really interesting to see groups of your paintings hung together. Curiously you start to see what kind of painter you are, what kind of personality you have as an artist, and that can be very healthy and useful for you.
Josephine: What will you be looking for in the entries when choosing your Judge’s Choice Prize?
Charlotte: I’ll be looking for sincerity, authenticity and honesty in in the work. I don’t have any particular bias towards abstract or figurative, although I am a figurative painter. I think that abstraction is a language common to both disciplines. So I look forward to being surprised by whatever comes my way.
Josephine: Do you have any advice for artists out there thinking about entering Jackson’s Art Prize this year?
Charlotte: I would say just do it. Give it a try. You never know, you might be successful. Working towards something, having a deadline, is very healthy. It makes you finish work and it makes you get yourself organised for something. I’d advise you to put your best work in and maybe you win something. Who knows.