Saturday, 18 April 2009


I was invited by Stuart Pearson Wright to the Private View of Anopseudononymous - a group show that he co-curated at a gallery called Five Hundred Dollars in East London, supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

Stuart is my favourite contemporary artist and his painting of John Hurt at the National Portrait Gallery always draws me, despite me having seen it before, so I could not pass up this chance to meet the man in person and despite a raging hangover, I went along - alone. This was a deliberate decision as I felt I would be more likely to speak to strangers if I was there on my own, rather than hiding behind the security blanket of a friend.

The three people I ended up talking to mainly during the evening were coincidentally all Jerwood Prize nominees/winners. Robbie Rush has been shortlisted for this years contemporary painting prize and gave me advice about shipping work overseas, David Ben White was kind enough to give me a good name-remembering technique (and look - it worked) and then David Harker and I spent the rest of the evening chatting as we seemed to be the only people there who didn't know everyone else - although there were some very recognisable famous faces there. I could not help being extremely uncool (but it made her laugh) with Julia Davis who is a comedy genius, could not even begin to get up the nerve to speak to Steve Merchant (who is taller than he looks on telly - seriously, he's a giant) and briefly spoke to some guy from The Mighty Boosh but as I don't watch it, I hadn't a clue who he was. Everyone was very cool and confident and 'London' and I felt very out of place in a way that I never have before. London has always been my city. I've been going there alone since I was twelve years old. I'm sure the hangover wasn't helping. I had been violently ill throughout the night and had woken up still drunk that morning - not the best way to find scintillating Sarah! And I felt positively drab next to David's friend Leanne Elliot who produces work as Elliot Young. A more delightful, vivacious and sparkling character I have yet to meet and I can tell that the moment when she poked her finger through her glassless glasses (there to distract people's attention from her eyebags) will stay in my mind for a long time.

And then of course came the point when I finally got up the nerve to speak to Stuart, wishing I could be all casual and cool and interesting but because of nerves, turning into a complete idiot. I told him he is my favourite artist and thanked him for inviting me. I explained how much I loved his portrait of John Hurt and for some bizarre reason I said that I like it so much that if I could get away with it, I would nick it! He gestured at his portrait of Tom Jones that I had been standing by most of the evening and suggested it would be easier to take that one! He asked me what I thought of the exhibition and I said I liked some of it and didn't like some of it. Immediately he asked which ones I didn't like.

How can you answer that? I knew all the artists were there and I didn't want to be specific, so I explained that I like detail and find more naive art less appealing, although I am trying to move away from being so obsessed with detail. I could have been more specific, I guess - I could have said that I don't like crudely daubed paintings of knob-guzzling blow-jobs. I don't see the point of it. And so many young male artists produce that sort of thing. It isn't new; it isn't inventive; it isn't aesthetically pleasing and it isn't titillating. It doesn't even raise any interesting questions in my mind and make me think about life in a broader context. It just bores me. Again it leads us back to the question, 'What is Art?'.

But is that just me? Am I too obsessed with technique? Is it getting in the way of my creativity? I know I paint too slowly and I only really like the last couple of paintings I have produced - I'm almost embarrassed by most of my older stuff as my technique is changing so rapidly. I'm actually really excited by what is happening with my work now and my head is buzzing with ideas. It is time for some brutal experimentation - and I need to enter more competitions too. But I also need to produce work that has been commissioned. Yet again it is all down to time management - something harder to deal with as more and more is piled on my plate.

It is time to become organised, efficient and capable - and maybe open my mind a little more. Maybe my lack of understanding of some kinds of art is less to do with the artist and more to do with me? Maybe this is when being a self-taught artist is a real disability.

In the meantime, I hope no-one half-inched the picture of Tom Jones...

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