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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)

Friday, 22 July 2011

Charlie O'Sullivan Mixes Memories in Tighnabruaich

Charlie O'Sullivan (yes, a she) in her studio at Delamore House in Devon


This is an unedited version of an artist profile on Glasgow-born, Devon-based painter, Charlie O'Sullivan, which appeared in The Herald on July 16, 2011

CHARLIE O’SULLIVAN: RETRACING OLD MEMORIES
Tighnabruaich Gallery, Argyll 
01700 811681
July 23 - August 31 
One of the great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s favourite quotes came from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass at the point which the White Queen says to Alice: “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards”.
Memories, as we all know, work in all sorts of mysterious ways. Forwards, backwards, intermingled, falsely...
They can assail us when we’re least expecting them and even when the mind starts to close off in old age, memories going back decades can feel like they have just taken place.
For Glasgow-born, Devon-based artist, Charlie O’Sullivan, memories are made of everything she sees, hears, smells touches and tastes. Her colour-saturated, heavily layered acrylic paintings on wood or canvas, and occasionally paper, take the viewer on a personal narrative journey, which emerges from this sensual assault.
As well as instant visual appeal, there are conversations and snatches of poetry going on in between the layers of a Charlie O’Sullivan painting. For Tighnabruaich Gallery owner Penny Graham-Weall, all these factors combined to reel her in when she first saw the paintings at the Edinburgh Art Fair last year.
“I fell for her work instantly,” she admits. “It’s so vibrant and she has such a sure sense of design, which comes from her past life as an illustrator. 
“There are layers and layers of meaning mixed in with the paint. I loved it so much, I bought one for myself. My husband Andrew and I then got talking to the owners of the Steam Gallery in Beer, Devon, and before we knew it, we’d arranged to have a solo show for Charlie in Tighnabruaich this summer. 
“It’s a real coup, because Charlie is one of the south west of England’s up-and-coming names in the art scene and this will be her first show in Scotland.”
This much is true. For the last three years, O’Sullivan has been painting at full-tilt, stopping only to lecture in fine art at Cornwall College, in between caring for her growing family. 
The price of a O’Sullivan’s painting has more than quadrupled since she first started exhibiting seriously in 2008 and she has recently given up part-time lecturing to devote herself to making her art.
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.
O’Sullivan’s chief inspiration comes from memories of a childhood spent growing up in 1970s Glasgow, where her father worked in the shipyards of Govan, and later in Blackpool, to which the family moved after her father was laid off. 
In between what she describes as ‘not a great childhood’, her rock was Granny Riley, an inveterate storyteller who fed this dreamy child’s imagination while offering a sense of security which was absent at home.
“She would make up stories before going to sleep as we cuddled up in bed,” she recalls now. “I stayed with her a lot during childhood and loved her so much.” 
After attending David Hockney’s old art college, Bradford School of Art, O’Sullivan worked as a freelance illustrator. As artist in residence at Hackney Hospital in London, she organised workshops for patients suffering from dementia. 
The experience had a profound effect on her work and even now, the stories she heard during that period are feeding into her work, providing her with a constant source of material and a working practice which continues to this day.
“Preparing for this solo show in my homeland has been a really interesting experience,” she explains. “Thoughts of Scotland have brought back many memories and inspired many a brush stroke. This has been helped by reading the poetry of local Tighnabruaich poet, Steve Thorpe.
“The images are not literal, but a combination of colour and abstraction from both the landscape and the words. Reading the history of the area and reading between the lines of these words enabled me to fuse my ideas and imagination.”
The resulting body of work is a vibrant, poetic clamjamfry which grabs you on first sight, them holds you in the moment as you make your own memories.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of Charlie O’Sullivan, it won’t be the last. In Retracing Old Memories, remembered and imagined, she has conjured up a little bit of all our lives.

A Whispered Question by Charlie O'Sullivan

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