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Student stories: Arlene Sharp

Arlene Sharp Nominated for Freelands Prize for Painting 2022

The Freelands Foundation was set up in 2015 to give anincreased number of people the chance to engage with and enjoy the arts in the UK, with a particular focus on education.

Their ambition is to give everyone access to a creative and cultural education in the belief that it raises their aspirations and transforms their opportunities in life. That makes them a perfect fit for us!

The Freelands Painting Prize has been developed to support artists at an early stage in their practice and all UK art colleges are able to nominate a single student in their final course of study to be considered for it. The prize is an exhibition with 7 other winners and a catalogue.

We convened a panel of all the tutors for the eligible students and undertook a two stage process to identify one candidate. It was, of course, awful to do as everyone was so fantastic but we persevered as this is a great opportunity and we are all lifted by the achievements of any one of us. 

We used a simple scoring system and, whilst everyone got some points, one person was a clear winner and that was Arlene Sharp.

Arlene’s practice has always been characterised by an unflinching and ambitious exploration of space. In her second year she made extensive use of combines and in the beginning of her graduating year she used site specific installation. She has consistently brought these investigations back into two dimensions (although she is operating at the meniscus between the two spatial paradigms). Her investigation of pictorial versus physical space and illusory form versus 3 dimensions has been extensive and highly creative and lends her paintings both a visual and a conceptual sophistication which makes them a sustained pleasure to view. Arlene reports that “Merlot-Ponty’s theories on the perception of space and Bachelard’s ‘Poetics of Space’” have been influential and latterly her investigation of space within landscape painting has further refined her practice aims. She says: Exploring space was paramount; I divided this into ‘Limitlessness and Unknown Space’, ‘Linking and Joining’, ‘Movement’ and ‘Conscious-Unconscious’.

Prior to her focus on landscape Arlene spent a while focussing on still life. This gave her a playground to develop her understanding of the formal properties of painting and in particular to gain courage and expertise in her use of colour and formal dissonance. The way that she has taken this very personal and somewhat unusual palette and her eloquent use of sharp edges out into the British countryside lends her work an exciting and unexpected quality which draws ones attention to the psychological aspects of experiencing place.

Whatever happens next, I am enormously proud of the SYP cohort just now who are literally all amazing – there are some great degree shows on their way- and I wish Arlene the best of luck.

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Posted by author: Emma Drye
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