London Paint Club

Sharon Lacey

Sharon Lacey incorporates her knowledge and training of classical oil painting techniques to create open-ended, mysterious paintings that access deep emotions and environments. Laceys process starts with layering paint in abstract forms that usually lead to clusters of figures depicted in an anonymous atmospheric landscape. Lacey avoids any specific references to clothes, technology, imagery or iconography in order to express elements of the universal human condition and behavioural patterns that are witnessed throughout history. Lacey also explores semi-autobiographical memories and the suffering, strength and beauty of the human will to survive.

Painting the Property Line, 2021, Oil on linen, 46 x 51 cm © The Artist

Kelly Foster – I was intrigued by the idea of collective trauma that you wrote about in your artist statement. Your work is figurative, but flirts with the idea of abstraction. The figures are not depicted in any specific place, which creates an abstract landscape. 

Sharon Lacey – I’ve been a figurative painter my entire career which is another common thread throughout my work. I work without preliminary sketches or studies. I usually start abstractly with a formal concern, or there’s some kernel of an idea — nothing too elaborate — at the root of what I’m trying to get at in the painting. I purposefully try to keep it open-ended without any definite image in mind, so the painting can unfold as I paint it. 

There is a commitment to oil paint as a medium and the legacy and tradition going back hundreds of years. By choosing to use oil paint, I’m positioning myself in a dialogue with a larger history. That gives the work a historical reference which is nonspecific in terms of geographic and temporal location. My training as an artist was very traditional and academically rooted in realism; now I try to avoid that level of specificity. I try to keep the work open without any specific references to clothes, technology, imagery or iconography. 

Fog, 2021, 51 x 46 cm, Oil on linen © The Artist

KFYou tend to depict nude figures in an abstract time and place. 

SLLately, I’ve also been really interested in the fact that there aren’t any new emotions. I take a lot of solace in looking at older art and the emotional tenor resonates with me. I’ve been trying to rethink the unclothed, anonymous figure and give it more specificity while trying to maintain a sense of relatability.  

KFDo you mean that the emotive quality to your work is relatable? 

SLI hope to communicate some shared aspect of embodied experience or of our emotional lives. Specifics may make it easier for a viewer to relate to the work. When there is a universal idea, it can be harder to see yourself in the hugeness of it than in some small, mundane gesture. 

Onwards, 2021, Oil on linen, 46 x 51 cm © The Artist

KFThe painting, Fog is very intense for me. There’s a certain darkness and sadness. Can you tell me about the choices for depicting the figures in your work? 

SLI started to paint groups of figures clustered together so that they would be entwined in one shape in the composition. I go about it without any preliminary sketches, and I begin painting an abstract piece. Figures will then emerge through the process. I am drawn to an older visual language, but I generally avoid any direct reference to a particular past work. I like the idea of grand gestures and intertwining bodies that are stripped away of any decoration or objects, which leaves only the emotional content remaining.  

KFThe images are really powerful, especially because of all of the disturbing images we are exposed to. 

SLI’ve been painting these groups of figures huddled and clustered together for the past ten years, and I feel like we just keep repeating patterns in life and in art history. 

KFWhen you paint without any preliminary sketches, what determines how the painting will evolve? 

SLThe painting evolves through the layering process of the paint. They usually start out a lot brighter and eventually become more sombre because of the glazing and building up of layers. I don’t work with a specific colour palette in mind. If I don’t like something, I’ll wipe it out. That gesture may leave a mark that resembles a figure or something. Other times I work more additively and base the work on shapes, abstract brushstrokes or light and shadow. Eventually the figure comes through, which leads to other figures. 

KFSo one thing intuitively leads to another and you continuously build up the work to reveal the figurative elements. This process seems to give it the universal feeling of the work, and that it is not rooted in any specific culture, time, gender or other identifier. 

SLIt’s also the reason why I don’t use any naturalistic flesh tones. I want to root the work in abstraction and think more about the interactions of colour and form. 

KFIn The Property Line, you mentioned that the painting was more autobiographical. Was that intentional? 

SLIt was more intentional than I’m used to. That particular painting started out as clusters of figures, but eventually a single figure emerged with a landscape in the background. Then something about the remaining figure reminded me of my dad. I decided to put him in the landscape of a tree farm from my childhood, and it became very narrative. That led me to think about painting more personal memories. 

KFWhat was it about that figure that reminded you of your father? 

SLIt was the body language of the figure, the stance. There is a certain weight to the body and a presence that shows with older bodies that have endured hard work. 

KFThere is a narrative quality to the painting, but it still remains very mysterious. The pink gestures make me want to construct a story, and I get a mystical or spiritual energy from the work. 

SLIt’s open-ended and I want people to bring their different interpretations to the work. It’s really up to the viewer to draw their own conclusions from the painting. Growing up in a rural community on a tree farm, the painting depicts a very basic thing you have to do to designate the perimeter of the property.  

I’m interested in the topic of dealing with ageing parents and caretaking. I’m reflecting on things from different stages of my life and trying to see things from their point of view, their limitations and restrictions, the body failing you and that type of process. 

The Space Between

Issue no. 1

Work Enquiry