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Artists To Watch: The Visionaries Pt.1

Updated: Jul 30

To possess a power that invokes both imagination and wisdom is one that doesn’t come to many. It requires patience, a solid strategy and an attentive eye that only strengthens through daily practice. A visionary brings pieces of their mindful world into the physical; leaving their mark.


While some rely solely on words, others can capture the unexplainable within a frame - or on a canvas. We caught up with four gifted artists (split into two parts), who make sense of their worlds and explain how using their artistry says the things words simply can’t.


SHARON ADEBISI: THE ONE WHO FOUND REFUGE IN HER GIFT

For Sharon Adebisi, her introduction to the world of art consisted of classrooms and stale paintbrushes that hardly ever got replaced. Once she started to address the visual messages that surfaced upon her canvas, the self-taught painter found refuge within each stroke. From commissions to though-provocative depictions, Sharon recognised her gift as the key to an unexpected path.


"Do not neglect your gift, which was given to you through prophecy" 1 Timothy 4 vs 14 (found on the artist's about page)

When and how did you first get into art?


I first got into art during secondary school. I did it for GCSE because I enjoyed drawing (even though I wasn’t good at it at the time) and even when I was at home, I would draw things to entertain my bored only-child self.


I took it further when I started sixth-form and would paint pictures for my friends on their birthdays as I was too broke to buy them gifts. Over time, people started to notice my work and ask me to paint stuff for them/their friends/relatives for a fee. I did this for a few years, especially during university to help me financially through my degree. It was only when I went to a leadership programme (called Powerlist Foundation at the time) and was surrounded by so many ambitious young black proactive students, that I decided to turn my art into a brand.



What has been the highlight of your journey as an artist so far?


The highlight of my art journey was probably when I stopped creating commissioned pieces. The craziest thing was, the moment I chose to only create art as an expression of my emotions and experiences, my work began to gain significant attention. I was invited to exhibitions, had several pieces going viral on social media, and receiving very lucrative financial offers for my work. All because I chose to create from the heart. It felt, and still feels amazing to be valued for just doing me.


Many people believe that art reflects the world around us, do you agree?


Yes. Artists create work that expresses their feelings, articulates their experiences or just of people/things/cultures that they’re interested in. These subjects are all influenced by the world around us.


Satin Obscurity (2019)


With your recent work, a lot of the people you paint appear to be “faceless”. What made you want to explore that style into your work?


I started painting faceless figures when I received my 12th rejection from medical school early last year. After wanting to be a doctor since I was like 14, this incident made me realise that maybe medicine wasn’t meant to be the career path for me. Since everything I‘d done thus far in life had been geared towards me studying medicine; this dream now being taken away left me feeling broken and confused. I felt like I’d lost a part of my identity, and thus started to reflect this feeling in my work by creating subjects with obscure, ‘faceless’ faces (see the Satin Obscurity (2019) pieces).


By the time I’d created the Layers (2019) series, I had healed a bit and started to discover who I was outside of academia and a failed medicine career. Reading a lot of books by black authors during this period made me learn a lot more about what it means to be black; slowly restoring my sense of self-identity. Whilst my career and everything else in life seemed uncertain, the one part of my identity that remained certain was my blackness. Which is portrayed by the abundance of black, faceless figures in my work.




Layers (2019)



GARY MILLER: THE ONE WHO FINDS TREASURE IN EVERYTHING

Gary Miller’s approach to his work is very much like the modern day inventor. With scraps and pieces he’s able to harvest, the London born artist always manages to find beauty in the end. After obtaining knowledge from his grandmother about different fabric and materials, impressive design education and his unusual explorations of different body parts; Miller’s unique adaptation of portraits continues to fuel the excitement that can be found in the art world today.


“I was taught at a young age to repurpose and reuse materials to give them a second life”

When and how did you first get into art?


I was the artistic youngest child in the family and found that drawing, sewing, or creating anything with my hands was my creative outlet. At 16, I went to East Surrey School of Art and Design where I studied painting and textiles. I pursued a professional career in fashion design studying in Croydon College (my home town) and a BFA in Fashion Design and Textiles at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication. I left London in 1995 for NYC, where I lived near the Chelsea art district and in 2013 moved to San Francisco to teach at the Academy of Art University where I completed my MFA in Fine Art and Painting.


During my formative art school years, I would frequently visit the museums of London, in particular the Tate Britain, V&A, The National Portrait Gallery, and the Saatchi Collection, where I was especially drawn to the artists who worked in unconventional materials. One of my favourite places is The Metropolitan Museum, and one of my favourite paintings is by Morris Louis, an American Abstract Expressionist.


Benjamin (2019)


What's the usual process you go through when creating a new piece?


I begin with a photo session with models, during which I often make use of height platforms, stairs, or chairs in order to achieve a sense of distortion and forced perspective. Over the last year I have realised I am slowly exploring this forced perspective with various body parts - neck, elbows, hands -and I am currently working on a series of armpits. On some level, I know these areas are all associated with various fetishes, which I think has been an underlying theme in all my work.


I work each piece methodically by combining dry drawing media, tape, or fabric in a very controlled way; overlaid with various wet media techniques in order to create an image that is part drawing, painting, and surface textile application.


Who are some of the most inspiring people that you have connected with on your journey?


There have been many visual memories from artists whose work has stuck with me: Damion Hirst’s ‘A Thousand Years’ at Saatchi Gallery, Mickalene Thomas’s ‘Origin of the Universe at the Brooklyn Museum, Nick Cave’s sound suits at Jack Shainmans Gallery, Matthew Barneys ‘Cremaster’ series and Alberto Burri’s ‘The Trauma of Painting’ at the Guggenheim, and Kerry James Marshall’s ‘Mastry’ at The Met Breuer to name just a few.


Instagram has opened my eyes even wider, and I enjoy seeing work by Ryan Hewett, Loribelle Spirovski, Bisa Butler, Alice Neal, Joseph Lee, Pascal Marlin, Cai Guo-Qiang, and Justin Bower.


We’ve noticed with your art work, you explore with different materials. What made you want to explore this technique in your work?


It has taken me a long time to realise this, but my interest in mixed media can be attributed to my parents. They both grew up during WW2 and kept or reused everything, and I was taught at a young age to repurpose and reuse materials to give them a second life. Hence, my interest in all forms of mixed media and seeing something new in something others would discard. My nan, who was a seamstress in a couturier, taught me about fabrics, hand sewing, and embroidery, which I try to incorporate into my work somehow.


The materials I use often determine the outcome of each piece. I have always been interested in the process and like to see the process in an artist’s work; so leaving pieces in various stages of completion is intentional.




Nicks Neck (2020) and Nathan With Green Chair (2019) [left to right]



To find out more about Sharon Adebisi and Gary Miller check out their socials to stay up to date with their current and upcoming projects.