ART is many things to many people, but if you want to knowwhat it means to Sue Barnfield then just head along to the Basildon Eastgate Art Gallery and you’ll understand.
Never has there been the chance to gawk at so many famous faces in the town thanks to Sue, a self-taught artist, who is currently displaying a number of her striking celebrity portraits at the gallery, within the Eastgate Shopping Centre.
The solo exhibition features paintings of superstars such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Johnny Depp, as well as global icons including Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana, all created by Sue’s fair hand with watercolours, acrylics and pastels.
Sue’s display, which also features a few paintings of First World War scenes, will run until the end of July, which will coincide with the gallery celebrating its third birthday.
The mum-of-one, who lives in Laindon with husband Jim and teenage daughter Georgia, has named the display “Come Together” as it signifies the collation of all of her best work.
However, it’s also rather poignant as her passion for art was borne out of her schoolgirl obsession with the Fab Four, who famously had a hit with the same name.
She said: “From when I was about 12 I’d pick up my pencil and draw the Beatles endlessly, all four of them – over and over again. My love of art spanned from there really. I realised how much pleasure I’d get from drawing and painting.
“Now my influences come from many different areas, but I particularly enjoy painting Marilyn Monroe because she was just so beautiful and her face was so symmetrical. I have three Marilyn pieces in this exhibition.”
So if Sue, who was encouraged by her late father George, who was also an accomplished painter, could chose to have anyone in the world sit for a portrait who would it be?
“That’s not hard,” she said.
“Johnny Depp every time because he’s gorgeous and he’d be sitting there right in front of me and I’d get to look at him all day!”
Sue fits her artwork around her day job as a special needs teaching assistant at Lincewood Primary School in Laindon.
She said: “I’m one of those annoying people who is extremely content with their life! I adore my job working with amazing children and staff and I have a wonderful family. Being able to create art is the icing on the cake for me.
“After a number of years working in the banking and IT industry in London, I left a very well paid job to pursue a career in art because I realised it was what I had to do. Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of commissions over the years and it’s paid off.”
Sue has always given life 100 per cent. At the age of 30 she went to night school to study for an A-Level in Art, and when she was in her twenties she learnt how to fly a plane.
“I had always wanted to have flying lessons, so I thought, why not? I really enjoyed it,” she said.
“I always think, you only live once so we have to try different things and most of all find something you enjoy doing in life.”
Co-founder of the art gallery, Vin Harrop, himself a sculptor, praised Sue’s work and said her exhibition was the perfect way for the art gallery to mark its third anniversary.
Basildon mayor Mo Larkin and South Basildon and East Thurrock MP Stephen Metcalfe both attended the opening of Sue’s exhibition.
Mr Metcalfe said: “It was fantastic to be at the opening of this exhibition. It is a great use of the space in the shopping centre and gives the general public the chance to see some brilliant artwork by one of our very own local artists.
“I was incredibly impressed by the standard of the work and would like to congratulate Sue on creating such a diverse and imaginative exhibition.”
- The Basildon Eastgate Art Gallery, on the Upper Mall, is free to enter and is open from Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm