Still on the trail: Sarah Kudirka

©Sarah Kudirka / Photo by Lucid Plane©Sarah Kudirka / Photo by Lucid Plane

Last year, we invited a number of artists taking part in Art Trail Wanstead to talk about their work and inspiration. This year, we are revisiting the work of some of those artists to see where the trail has taken them. Things are looking up for professional artist Sarah Kudirka, who asks: "When did you last look up at the sky, squeezed in between the city buildings?"

Don't we all spend too much time looking down at our phones or hurrying along surveying the pavement beneath our feet? As an artist, I figure it is my job to do precisely the opposite.

When in the summer of 2012, London hosted the (best ever) Olympic Games in our backyard, I was busy walking the city streets, looking up at the sky and taking Polaroids. Since then, I've been making hundreds of tiny oil paintings of city skies, reimagined over my instant snaps. Far from copying what I saw, I take my snapshots as inspiration. To be clear, I make paintings, not painted-over photographs.

I had never done anything like it before, but welcomed the chance to exhibit my work during Art Trail Wanstead 2014, and found it a very positive experience. As a mum of a young toddler, I struggled to make any of the evening meetings for artists connected with the trail, but instead I did lots of social media publicity via Twitter and online arts channels. I was also very pleased to have a page on my work appear in the Wanstead Village Directory.

I showed 10 artworks that had never been seen outside my studio in The Orange Tree and was delighted to sell a framed set of eight images to a collector in Wanstead. As I packed the artwork to be taken home, the buyer told me that she had been looking for some time for "a London picture, but one that didn't shout London."

That got my work entirely right: I don't focus on landmarks but prefer the backstreets and the anonymous buildings where people live or work; sometimes districts that are being extensively rebuilt, with shiny towers displacing warehouses. I'm not sentimental about it; the skyline is continually changing.

I love cities. My 'day job' leading creativity courses and design culture initiatives within a global engineering firm has taken me to some amazing places, but home is East London and I am not alone in finding it one of the most exciting places in the world in which to make art.

What's next? This April, my City.Skies.London paintings will be seen by thousands of people passing daily through Canary Wharf. I will be exhibiting a large installation in a window gallery in Canada Place. I am also seeking more opportunities to show and to work to commission in the future. Extending the series to Berlin is my next plan and I would also like to explore the potential for large-scale prints of my work. I hope to participate in the next Art Trail Wanstead too, as it goes from strength to strength.

Simply walking in a city and looking up at the sky doesn't sound that profound perhaps, but it remains a compelling project for me and a rich seam for making more paintings. I'd be happy to inspire one person to look up at the sky today.

To view more City.Skies.London paintings and Sarah's other work, visit sarahkudirka.co.uk


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