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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Charlie O'Sullivan (for it is she) at Tighnabruaich Gallery

A Minute's Silence by Charlie O'Sullivan

ONE of the brightest talents emerging from the buzzing art scene of the south west of England is Glasgow-born Charlie O’Sullivan.

Charlie is currently preparing for her first solo show in Scotland at the Tighnabruaich Gallery in Argyll. The exhibition, Retracing Old Memories, opens on July 23 and continues throughout August.

Charlie has only been exhibiting seriously since 2008 and in that time, she has become one the most sought-after artists working in the south west of England, with queues of buyers looking to acquire her work at art fairs in London and Bristol.

Recently, she was invited to join the prestigious South West Academy (the south west of England’s equivalent of the Royal Scottish Academy), an honour she shares with Sir Peter Blake and Ken Howard, among others.

I saw her work in the small-but-perfectly formed Tighnabruaich Gallery in the village of Tighnabruaich, Argyll. I am always drawn to artwork which tells a story and Charlie's paintings were like storybooks within four sides of a canvas. They're not obvious. You have to work at filling in your own backstory. The layers are all there. Like real life, it's not a straightforward process. Every one has its own life blood and I like that in a painting!

My first thought was that they reminded me of the illustrations of Eric Carle (of Hungry Catterpillar fame) and it was no surprise to learn that Charlie worked in illustration for many years before becoming a full time artist.

Tig Gallery owner Penny Graham-Weall told me that she had first seen Charlie’s vibrant paintings at the Edinburgh Art Fair last November where the Steam Gallery, from Beer in Devon, were showing her work.

“I fell for her work instantly,” Penny told me. “It’s so colourful and she has such a sure sense of design. There are layers and layers of meaning mixed in with the paint. I loved it so much, I bought one for myself. We got talking to the owners of the Steam Gallery and before we knew it, we’d arranged to have a solo show for Charlie in Tighnabruaich this July.

“It is a real coup, because Charlie is one of England’s up-and-coming names in the art scene.”

For this solo show, Charlie has been inspired by the poetry of local Tighnabruaich poet, Steve Thorpe. “I can’t wait to get up to Argyll in July,” she admits. “Reading Steve’s poems and looking at images of the area, I feel it is really feeding into my work.

“I liken my paintings to a conversation in between the layers and there is also poetry underneath the layers. My background is as an illustrator of childrens’ books and there is always a strong narrative running through all my work. Some are emotive. Some less so. With the work for Tighnabruaich, I feel I am really connecting to old memories.”

CHARLIE O'SULLIVAN was born in Glasgow in the late 1960s into a family steeped in shipbuilding. An only child, she and her parents left Glasgow for Blackpool when she was six years old when he father lost his job in the yards.

She led what she describes as spent an itinerant childhood moving as her parents chased work around the country. One constant in her life was ‘Granny Reilly’, who lived in Govan before moving out to the new town of Cumbernauld.

“My parents were not great,” she says now. “I depended on my imagination a lot to escape from reality. I spent a lot of time with my granny Reilly, who was a born storyteller. I used to sit on her knee and paint while she told me stories.”

After attending Bradford College, she worked as a freelance illustrator. Her time spent in Hackney Hospital, working with dementia patients, has proved a rich source of material for later paintings.

She moved to Devon with her husband Paul and two children around a decade ago and, inspired by her surroundings, started painting seriously, although it was still mainly a hobby.

A chance meeting in 2008 with renowned West Country artist, Michael Morgan, led to him introducing Charlie to his home gallery, Marine House and Steam Gallery at Beer, Devon.
Charlie has since become one of the gallery’s most sought-after artists, with queues forming at art fairs in London, Bristol and Edinburgh, to snap up her work.

She told me: "I have always been inspired by the colour and texture of both landscapes and objects. As a child I drove my family to distraction with the contents of my pockets. Collections found and used for spontaneous exhibitions at the dinner table or on my bedroom window sill. I still remain true to this tradition yet use paint to fuse both memories and experience, which are suspended within the painted layers.

I try to depict a specific experience with high texture, multilayers of paint and words hidden or reworked often by sanding and scratching as I drive to express the concept in my mind though always, as with life, expecting things to change along the way."

For more information see www.charlieosullivanart.com

July 23 until August 31, 2011
Tighnabruaich Gallery, Argyll, PA21 2DR
Tel: 01700 811681

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