August 28, 2019

Q+A with Painter and John Byrne Monthly Award Winner, Sarah Ogilvie

Q+A with Painter and John Byrne Monthly Award Winner, Sarah Ogilvie

Sarah Ogilvie is a painter who has twice been recognised by The John Byrne Award for her outstanding entries; firstly as one of 2018/19’s Top 30 Entries, and more recently as our Monthly Award Winner for June 2019. Here, Sarah gives us a fascinating insight into her creative practice, and discusses her painting, Hanging on the Telephone, a striking, photo-realistic musing on modern technology.


Click here to view Hanging on the Telephone.

Click here to view Sarah’s Award-Winning entry for June, Stay Puft.


JBA: In your John Byrne Award entry, Hanging on the Telephone, you explored the question: ‘Has technology taken over society?’ Why did you choose to focus on this topic?

I have been focusing on the structure of society and its changes over time. This is something that I find interesting; to see how the materiality of, and emphasis on objects has changed according to society’s concerns over time. Technology is constantly changing at such a fast pace, which is why I thought it would be interesting to capture the reflection of the photograph being taken by a new phone in the receiver of a 1960s telephone – and in a few months even the new phone will be out of date!

I have grown up in a society where social media and ‘being connected’ all the time creates so much pressure for people; it has even been suggested that an increase in social media use and the demands that this brings can be linked to an increase in suicide – especially in young adults who compare the ‘ideal life’ portrayed on social media to their own. Mental health is such an important topic, and hopefully this work will help people to open up and talk (the original purpose of the telephone) about this issue. Not only does this work highlight the isolation caused by technology, it also shows that help is only a phone call away.

JBA: When and how did you start painting?

My dad is an artist, so I have always been surrounded by creativity and an encouraging atmosphere, which is where my original interest began. I’ve always enjoyed painting, however it wasn’t until secondary school, when I had an inspirational art teacher who really believed in me, that I was able to grow my confidence in painting and in myself. My teacher showed me that its good to think big and outside of the box. His excitement and enthusiasm for my projects really encouraged me to work hard to make both him and myself proud.

JBA: And why do you continue to paint, now?

It is something that I have complete control over. Only I am in charge of the brush work, the ideas, and the execution. As a girl I was quite shy, but art has allowed me to have a voice. I love being able to lose myself for hours and seeing a piece develop into a finished work – there’s a relief and a sadness when its over! My parents are also a huge factor, they continually support and encourage me- I don’t know what I’d do without them!

JBA: Where do you get your creative inspiration?

I love looking at the history of art; from imagery, to the working methods of artists and their concerns of the time. I have an understanding of this history, and have put my own spin on it. I find it very interesting to do this, as even though today we have vast technological advances, I still find it fascinating to use traditional working methods and see the effect that they have on my paintings. In the past, females were very rarely able to express themselves or be able to participate in art or painting. By utilising historic methods, I am offering a female perspective on society. My painting style pays homage to both the great male and female artists of the past, but paints female perspective into that history.

JBA: What impact is your work having/ would you like your work to have?

I would like my work to make people think about the changes in society over time, and to evaluate if those changes are all necessarily for the best. Why do we do what we do (for example, use phones, eat fast food, drink alcohol)? Is it because we need to or because we have been influenced to do so?

JBA: Can you recommend something for us to read, watch or visit? Explain why you would recommend it.

Alyssa Monks did an amazing TED talk that addresses how art allowed her to break the rules. It also looks at loss, how it altered her work, and how to find beauty in the unknown and unpredictable. The Jenny Saville interview on her new series ‘The Ancestors’ is another inspiring speech, about merging bodies to create a holistic image of the female form. Saville paints females across time periods and geographical locations to give women a place within art history as ‘its our history too’.

JBA: Describe yourself and your creative work in one sentence?

Taking the ordinary and making people look at it in a different way.



Instagram: @sarahogilvieart