Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2016

Sheila Wallis

Sheila Wallis, Self-portrait

Sheila Wallis, Self-portrait

Sheila Wallis, Self-portrait

Winner of the Threadneedle Prize 2009

Essentially alone, all objects and paraphernalia other than the body and the surface it rests upon are removed, presenting a small, naked creature, not the classic ‘nude’.

Sheila was born in Derry, Northern Ireland. Born at the height of the troubles, her work is partly inspired by themes of internal and external conflicts and the vulnerability and exposure of the existential human condition. She has chosen to express these themes by painting the naked body. Growing up, this was a form that she was prohibited from exploring due to the moral restraint of her Catholic upbringing, but it is her builder father's abilities with his hands and talent for creation, which is her earliest inspiration.
 
She first began using herself as a subject, but her work gained another dimension when she discovered the freedom to present anything she wished without making the unwitting sitter feel uncomfortable. It is important for her to present a self conscious but non-judgemental image of the painter as the object of the viewer’s gaze. The purpose of her work is to convey the vulnerability of exposure without being exploitative or cruel.
 
After winning the Threadneedle Prize, Sheila gave up her job working for the NHS in order to concentrate painting, deciding that “it’s time to take my art more seriously.”



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