Side, Sue

Sue Side, Artist

I specialise in portraiture and illustration. I exhibit regularly as a member of The Oxford Art Society, take part in Oxfordshire Artweeks annually and, in 2015, was selected to exhibit in the prestigious Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition. I am also Head of Art at The Manor School, Abingdon and recently gained a Postgraduate Certificate in Advanced Educational Practice as an Artist Teacher from Oxford Brookes University.

I particularly love portraiture and narrative, being drawn to the many subtle details that characterize humanity in any given moment – raising the ordinary to a thing to ponder; placing people in context or absenting context. Showing part of a face or an interaction creates a range of narratives and ways of seeing. I notice how the subtle ways in which we look, speak and gesture can give a range of fleeting impressions to the observer – the angle of a head, the position of a hand, the way someone sits or interacts with their environment. These all tell a story to which the onlooker adds their own.

I am also drawn to the world of woods and folktale, where the impossible becomes possible and the imagination can fly. Here madness and evil skirt the edges of a shifting world in which the reality of human dilemma is explored. The stories of these people is complex yet insubstantial and fleeting, played out against the vast stage of nature.

More recently I’ve been drawn to the story of starlings. The works require close looking. Thousands of individually ink drawn birds overlap one another again and again to create depth, pattern and fluidity in their aerial display. From a distance they seem abstract, random forms. It is only close-up you see the pattern, the purpose and togetherness of these starling flocks. Inevitably the murmuration (as in real life, I suppose) starts to take on a life of its own. I start with a plan but soon my starlings take over, evolving in unexpected ways. There may be a sudden change of direction by one small group as they strike out on their own determined path; another explosion of birds as if a quarrel has been had. But, each time, they return, swooping back into the safety of their roost. A little like family, a starling murmuration is a story of protection, sharing, gossiping and the joy of homecoming on darker winter days.

My media of choice are graphite and ink. Their warmth and natural versatility reflects the fragility of human life and, just as a fractional change in the face or body can change how we view someone, so the smallest drawn stroke can utterly change what you see.

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