Ocean View

Charlie O’Sullivan discusses her work


Ok. To give you an idea of where I come from, I started off in Glasgow and have worked my way down the country really, picking up experiences on the way. In Bradford is where I did my degree and I met people there that really inspired me. Moving on to London, I worked at Hackney Hospital and worked a lot in the East End of London first as a volunteer and then as a paid worker running workshops for Hackney Hospital mental health. These were very interesting and I still believe that some of the stories that those people told me that I wrote down in my sketch books still come out in my paintings.

I’m a great one for sitting on the coast with a sketch book and listening to people’s conversations. Otherwise I might be cast as being nosy. I love words; I love people’s experiences.

This painting’s called Untouched Memories. The inspiration for this painting came from finding an old letter in a junk shop written by Captain Atkins in the Second World War to his wife at home. Some of the writings for me began a narrative whereby I looked upon siting the narrative within the paint. This was an initial idea, but with all my paintings, the idea is just the starting point. Through the process of painting experience, conversations, etc, add to the work so therefore sometimes the finished piece isn’t a representation of the first idea, however is a culmination of different elements that I’m thinking of during the process.

The colours in this painting are particularly important as Captain Atkins goes on about the blues that he can see in the sky and how he wants  to come home to England. A lot of my paintings do actually have that sentimentality to them and emotional attachment. And here there’s a boat, again, not representational, but a boat in which I believe Captain Atkins would have sailed home to his wife.

Time Sails By. The idea for this painting came from my husband who, when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he asked for more time. I thought this was quite weird because of course you can’t package up or wrap time. But what I could do was actually paint. The image from here pulled together lots of different elements. I enjoy collecting and hoarding things like keys; clock keys, winding keys, anything that’s metal and rusty is something that I really enjoy, and often these find their way into my paintings. Here you can see that there are not representational boats, but boats that are placed in there from my own imagination. Although when you look through my sketch books I do lots of sketching on the seaside, on the coast as a surfing widow.

Here you can see a clock, which again goes back to time sailing by and why does time go so fast?

There can be figures in my paintings. Again, these might be representational from the beach that I’ve been on, but it’s really a holistic approach, so I pull pieces in from things that I’ve seen or observed or even conversations and words.

My husband enjoys the way that I paint, the process, and my painting really evolves through the process. I spend a lot of time thinking about colour and composition and texture, but it’s the accidents and the taking risks that really mean when I see the painting come together. For example here I’ve burnt into the wood with a pyrography tool to gain some of the texture on this section. Here this is sanded with a sand blaster with lots of layer of transparent glazes.

I’m quite hot on technique. I love process of the painting; I love the feel and texture of paint.

I think the essence of my work is the imagination which goes into each of the layers of paint. Throughout the layers of paint there are thoughts, emotions and sentimentalities and in this one in particular. This is an observation of a lady who was walking along Bantham Beach in South Devon. She was obviously there for hours so she wasn’t there just to walk her dog. But she carried a whole lot of baggage in her head. One of my sketches tried to interpret this baggage that she was carrying. And then when I worked back in the studio, this is the painting that evolved.

I think again there are pieces in here that perhaps aren’t evocative of the place where she was and I certainly don’t know her thoughts and her memories, but there’s part of it which symbolises for me what she was thinking.