Spotlight

Spotlight Collage Artist Sharon Walters

Championed by Péjú Oshin
The Wick - Sharon Walters
Above  Sharon Walters
ONES TO
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ONES TO
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The Wick - Sharon Walters
Above  Sharon Walters
Interview
Sharon Walters
05 October 2022
Interview
Sharon Walters
05 October 2022
The dream team that is British-Nigerian curator Péjú Oshin and London-based artist Sharon Walters have been teaming up on mentoring projects and exhibitions since 2020.

Oshin, who was recently appointed associate director at the Gagosian gallery following her departure from Tate where she worked as the curator for young people’s programmes, recalls how she met this week’s spotlight artist. She says: “I first encountered Sharon online while she did an Instagram live for Tate and instantly fell in love with her. The following year I curated Beyond Boundaries, an outdoor art project at Tate involving five young and emerging artists, and knew she would be the perfect person to approach as a mentor for one of the artists based on all I had seen of her.”
It’s perhaps not surprising that Oshin thought Walters would make a great mentor, the intention of Walters’ practice is to empower those who are marginalised to take up space, create their own spaces and develop opportunities to be seen, heard and instigate change. Her current series, entitled ‘Seeing Ourselves’, is a multidisciplinary body of work celebrating Black women, their histories and futures. It includes handmade composite images she created by cutting, gluing and manipulating one or more pictures into dimensional portraits, a podcast series and events in collaboration with various artists, historians and organisations.

Oshin says: “I love Sharon’s work for many reasons, primarily because it offers Black women the opportunity to be central to a narrative and see themselves. The latter is a call to action of which I draw from the title of her ongoing series ‘Seeing Ourselves’, which has been seen by thousands through the community that she has fostered which reaches globally and is in the thousands.

“I’m truly inspired by the space she creates for not just us as an audience looking and experiencing her work but also for herself, so that we might collectively look at ourselves and importantly through a dual lens of joy and vulnerability, which she holds brilliantly.”

Walters regularly partners with a number of prestigious organisations including the National Maritime Museum, Soho House and the National Portrait Gallery. She considers being commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to create a collage work featuring iconic Guyanese activists Eric and Jessica Huntley, founders of London-based publishing company Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications, as her biggest achievement to date.

Walters says: “They set up supplementary Saturday schools for Afro-Caribbean children with the aim of raising educational attainment by teaching curriculum subjects alongside Black history, to raise self-esteem, increase chances of gaining qualifications and prepare them for employment. I attended a Saturday school run by the phenomenal Huntleys. To create a piece featuring them for the National Portrait Gallery is a huge honour as they have made a huge impact on who I am and how I see myself.”

You can see Walters and her work next in a series of lives events for ‘Seeing Ourselves’ in early 2023. She is also currently recording the second ‘Seeing Ourselves’ podcast series in collaboration with the National Maritime Museum.

About the champion

The Wick - Photographer: Neequay Dreph Dsane

Curator, writer and lecturer Péjú Oshin was an easy choice for this week’s champion – she has a history of supporting young and emerging artists and cultural producers through her work at Tate, Barbican and Wellcome Collection. In addition to currently working at Gagosian as associate director, she is an associate lecturer on fashion and culture at Central Saint Martins and the author of Between Words & Space, a collection of poetry and prose.

“I love Sharon’s work for many reasons, primarily because it offers Black women the opportunity to be central to a narrative and see themselves.”

Place of Birth

London, UK.

Education

A bachelor of arts degree in Social Science (1995), a BA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins (2011), and a Post-Grad Post-16 Citizenship Education Teaching Certificate from the Institute of Education (2010).

Awards, Accolades

I won the 2019 Afshin Naghouni/Reach Art Prize, co-created ITV ident in January 2021 and completed the National Portrait Gallery Eric and Jessica Huntley commission in September 2022.

Current exhibitions

I have two works in the permanent collections at Soho House. Upcoming work will be exhibited at Gunnersbury Park Museum, followed by the National Portrait Gallery.

Spiritual guides, Mentors

I admire and respect the work of Deborah Roberts. Her work is captivating, showing dedication and commitment while executing pieces in an exceptionally impactful way, covering important and well-explored themes.

I first worked with Péjú Oshin in 2020 in her role as young person’s curator at Tate when she hired me for a great opportunity as a mentor on a project. Since then, we have worked together a few times. I asked her to interview me in a series of in-person live events with Soho House entitled ‘Seeing Ourselves’ where I curated and often led discussions with Black women. She has written a commissioned essay for my solo show leaflet and interviewed me for my solo show at Midlands Art Centre. It has been a pleasure getting to know Péjú over recent years and it is always wonderful working with her.

Advice

Keep going, it’s never too late. There is no single path or way of doing things. I have always wanted to be an artist and now I get to do what I’ve dreamt of doing full-time. I combine my experiences and various roles to lead a multidisciplinary practice, which manifests itself in a number of ways.


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