Angela Wakefield in Art of England:
(published in August 2012)
At the age of just 13, Angela Wakefield painted Van Gogh’s Sunflowers; she knew what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Yet, in 1997 she was working behind a bar, living in a flat in the centre of Accrington with no serious career prospects. Who could have predicted that, just ten years later, this ambitious young artist would be hailed a rising star of British art and would have the highest online profile of any urban landscape painter? Or that shortly afterwards she would be propelled to the bright lights of Hollywood, where her New York painting on the cover of art of England was spotted by award winning film director Danny Boyle?
Since Angela first appeared on Art of England’s October 2007 cover her career has cranked up several gears and we and we featured her work again in 2008 and 2010. but it was her No 19 in the New York Series that hit the Hollywood jackpot, when Danny Boyle spotted it on Art of England September 2011 front cover. The painting was chosen by Fox Searchlight Ltd to be used in Boyle’s film Trance, a high-energy psychological thriller set in contemporary London staring James McAvoy, set to be released in March 2013. Phil Harwood, owner of Ascot Studios, the gallery which hosts Angela’s work, told us when the 2011 cover came out the response was instantaneous and the gallery was inundated with queries. He said: “A dozen calls came in for the cover painting as soon as the magazine was released. We could have sold it over and over again. Within less than 48 hours, everything in the collection was sold. It got to the point we wanted to take the phone off the hook. Demand totally outstripped supply.”
Mr. Harwood added that the association with Art of England had been an important milestone on Angela’s road to success. He said “I really do. Sincerely, yes. It brings people, it brings collectors into the gallery and interest is converted into a sale. We’ve got to give credit. In 2007, Angela first appeared in the magazine, with a double page spread and it was quite clear that we were getting interest from a different group of people – driven by Art of England – who had seen ‘something’. Suddenly, the eyes of an appreciate, art-buying audience were directed towards this work, which they loved. The affiliation with the magazine has been something very special and a great many of Angela’s existing clients come though Art of England. The magazine really does do what it sets out to do – it supports burgeoning artists by opening its pages to showcase to the art-loving, art-going, art-buying public just what’s out there. It’s certainly been instrumental in exposing her to a much bigger audience and cranking up her career. The movie coming along with it is the icing on the cake.”
So, how does a northern lass, who happens to have a hell of a way with a paintbrush, react when Hollywood comes knocking at the door? “Disbelief at first. I was at home, painting. I just didn’t believe it. It sounded too good to be true. I was, am, flattered, excited, very excited. That kind of thing doesn’t happen every day!”
One has to wonder how this remarkable turn of event came about. Where was Mr Boyle when he picked up the magazine? In an airport lounge waiting for a flight perhaps? Drinking coffee in his office? Who knows, but one thing is for sure; where previously hundreds of people knew of Angela Wakefield’s work, with the magazine cover that became thousands and with the movie debut, soon millions will have the name of Angela Wakefield at the tip of their tongue.
Reaching the Hollywood heights will certainly see Angela rub shoulders with the great and good – Boyle, who will be the artistic director for the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony, won an academy award for Slumdog Millionaire in 2008. But the road has not been an easy on. it would be fair to say that Angela was failed by academia in her early years. The education system neglected to identify her dyslexia, and it was not until she arrived at the University of Central Lancashire that this diagnosis was made. She relief at finally being able to explain the way her mind worked, and being offered the tools to help deal with this realisation was like being reborn. University nurtured her talent, which might have been stifled in a more traditionally conservative environment.
Angela’s sense of optimism and a cast-iron work ethic compelled her to keep painting when things were tough, and to believe success was within her reach. She discovered she had a fair for computing and design and used these skills to fund her degree and her art career, working freelance as a web designer and graphic designer. This added a very marketable magic to her work, paved the way to success.
Angela is in good company as a dyslexic; other famous examples include Richard Branson, Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso. This is undoubtedly, a significant factor in Angela’s paintings. Her unique visual talent seems to be this ‘internal wiring’ and rather than viewing it as an impediment, Angela feels “blessed with the gift of dyslexia”. She remembers sitting in the back seat of the car as a child, watching the world whizzing by outside the windows. She recalls the rain, slightly diffused, impressionistic on the windscreen, as the imagery seeped into the landscape of her mind. These experiences influenced much of her work today, reaching out to her audience to convey a sense being there – intimately and yet removed, putting us in the frame as if we too are in the back seat of a car, glimpsing the luminous colours of the world rushing past.
Angela became a mother in 2008 and had a second child in 2011. her children are clearly a source of inspiration and a catalyst for success, the experience of motherhood has had a marked effect on her artwork, in that it has become more worldly and of a more considered nature.
Angela produced her first series. On the north of England, throughout the late 1990s. Set in historic northern cities such as Manchester, York and Edinburgh, the paintings reverberate with a sense of movement and the relationship between light and dark plays across the canvases, illuminating the sets with a sense of energy and vitality. The series enjoyed an overwhelming response.
David Blandford-Jupe, art collector, said: “northern art is not just limited to the gritty grind of the decaying industrial landscape; up-and-coming artists such as Angela Wakefield are continuing the legacy of great Northern art”.
In 2009, Angela conceived the idea of painting one of the world’s most iconic urban landscapes, in what was to become her New York series. Whilst the Big Apple has long been a popular subject for painters and its imagery is recognisable to the point of cliché, Angela portrays this city with a startling freshness of vision. This exemplifies her ability to convey a feeling about New York and it represents to millions of people, without rehashing the usual imagery of Manhattan that currently saturates the market.
The paintings were completed in 2010 and in September the following year, Ascot Studios took the cover of Art of England and an advertisement within the magazine. The choice of paintings selected for the ad’ was breathtaking. The range of images portrayed a refreshing view of New York, a certain gritty realism displayed with a grand, film-like quality.
The critic Ian Welland wrote in a previous edition of Art of England: “Angela Wakefield is a rising star of British art. I have not seen such arrangement in art since viewing paintings by Edward Hopper”.
Certainly, there is something in Angela’s art reminiscent of Hopper – a layer of emotional detachment perhaps where the boundaries between landscapes and humanity are blurred – and yet these spare and careful portrayals of the relationship between the lives of the paintings’ subjects and there settings are vividly and emotionally charged.
There is, as art critic Ian Welland describes it, an instinctive quality to her work; as he wrote in Art of England, September 2011: “Angela Wakefield is the most instinctive artist of our age”. This is high praise indeed and illustrates how the discerning eyes of collectors across the UK, Europe and USA are now seeing her work.
Increasingly, Angela is described as ‘the leading urban landscape painter of her generation’. David Latham, a well-respected art dealer with over 25 years’ experience of the art market and an extensive knowledge of Lowry’s biography, wrote in his 2011 essay ‘Art as an investment in the industrial North of England’: “Those who are considering art and investment in art from the industrial North of England will be aware of the famous scenes from the region by LS Lowry, but there are also modern artists such as Angela Wakefield producing urban landscape scenes. Art investments could play a part in a balanced portfolio of holdings, and unlike holdings in stocks and shares they represent an asset which can provide substantial personal satisfaction to the owner when displayed in the home.”
Angela Wakefield is now firmly established as ‘a name’ – a formidable force in the world of art. She will continue to evolve as an artist because of her drive to embark on new challenges and we will continue to follow this progress, watching to see how she will adapt her impressionistic, painterly style to depict completely new subjects, locations and landscapes.
Her recent work, the later paintings in the New York series, illustrates her growing ability to capture the full range of subjects we find in our urban environment, and her new project should test how this translates to a more rural landscape. While her early work had a certain naivety about it, there is something deadpan in her late portrayals.
Angela paints with a voyeuristic detachment, not wasting a single stroke. She refuses to indulge us with an ounce of unnecessary detain and the paradox is that this somehow imbues her work with a charge which draws the emotion from a scene – and the audience towards it.
Angela Wakefield’s art has received the seal of approval from the highest echelons of appreciation and, when artists entice not only the wealthy but also the influential, this can define them as an artist, empowering them to achieve more and more and amplifying the legacy they will leave behind.
Over the last few years, Angela Wakefield has been attracting the attention of art collectors across the UK & Europe. However, with her increasing focus on the American urban landscape, there has already been significant interest in her work from the USA.
With her intention to continue the New York Series, an increase in her profile in the USA is now upon us and will prove to be a defining moment in her career.
The painting to be featured in ARTnews is No.45 in her New York Series, and is a typically iconic interpretation of 42nd Street in Manhattan. Although this painting has many of the hallmarks normally associated with her previous originals, this work has been categorized by American commentators as ‘contemporary realism‘.
Normally working as a free and impressionistic painter of cityscapes and urban environments, being placed in this genre is testament to Angela’s ability to convey a strong sense of realism within her modern and progressive form of urban landscape painting.
Tel: 011 44 1254 878100 (from the USA) Tel: +44 (0) 1254 878100 (from Europe)
Email: email@example.comWeb: www.ascotstudios.com
Angela Wakefield released 3 new paintings last week, and on the day of their release all three were snapped up! Again, to all the collectors who made enquiries over the last week, may I sincerely apologise. Work of this quality does not stay in the gallery long, it has to be said!
Angela was particularly proud of the way in which these new paintings came together for her; she was confident that the direction in which she was taking her work was both an evolution and a diversification of what she has already achieved with the New York Series thus far.
The Hopper-esque ‘American Burger Bar’ (New York Series No.27 shown above) was particularly strong, illustrating Angela’s increasing ability to apply her unique painting technique to capturing the full range of subjects we find in our urban environment. Cars, people, light, trees, buildings and illuminated signage are brought to life by her impressionistic painterly style.
New York Series No.28 is a colourful snapshot of contemporary New York life with the Empire State Building in the distance, with No.29 in the series seeing Angela capture the red glow of a Manhattan sunset so effortlessly. (see below)
There is, as art critic Ian Welland describes it, an instinctive quality to her work; Ian wrote in the Art of England that “Angela Wakefield is the most instinctive artist of our age”. This is very high praise indeed, and hopefully shows how the discerning eyes of collectors across the UK, Europe & USA are now seeing her work.
Being described in such complimentary terms by industry professionals in international publications, and with inclusion in a forthcoming Hollywood movie, Angela Wakefield‘s paintings could become as iconic and significant as the imagery they are depicting.
“… as Angela’s reputation as the rising star of British Art spreads, the time is coming for her to say goodbye to many more pieces from her collection”
Rebecca Drake, Editor of ‘Concept for Living’
Nestled amidst the beautiful Lancashire countryside in the picturesque village of Ribchester sits the contemporary art gallery Ascot Studios. Opened 18 months ago by vivacious Lancashire lass Angela Wakefield, the studio exhibits contemporary art by a variety of up-and-coming artists, including an assortment of work by Angela herself.
Diminutive in proportion, with sparkling eyes and a personality to match, Angela exudes a vibrant enthusiasm for her art and gallery alike. Both the gallery and accompanying studio, where Angela creates a lot of her work, are housed in Bee Mill, a converted textile mill which dates back to 1888. Retaining a variety of its original features and flooded with natural light, the mill is the ideal environment to showcase Angela’s unique work; a variety of urban landscapes, inspired by everyday life in the North West.
Angela and her partner Phil show me around the gallery. It’s a beautiful contemporary space. The urban look and feel of the interior juxtaposed with the quaint riverside village location of the mill; a space to contemplate and create. An enthusiastic artist since childhood, Angela tells me she began drawing as soon as she could hold a pencil. Raised in Chaigley near Accrington, she completed her fine art degree at UCLAN in 2002. She then spent the following 4 years pursuing her ultimate dream of owning her own gallery, whilst, of course, developing her own artistic career too.
Passionate about the North and also other northern artists, Angela opened a studio next to her gallery to give other up-and-coming artists a place to work and be inspired.
“It’s not just about me,” she explained; “It’s about the North and northern artists. Why should we have to leave the North to make it? We draw inspiration from each other. Sometimes there are five or six of us working here at the same time. I love the buzz. The creative banter. Hearing paintbrushes against canvas.”
Angela has found inspiration for much of her work in scenes that many of us would perceive as mundane. Her critically acclaimed collection Urban Landscapes, which includes pieces such as ‘Chip Shop, Nuttal Street, Accrington’, ‘CIS Solar Tower Manchester’ and ‘Winter Rush Hour’, exude movement, colour and light. Angela explained to me that she is fascinated by cityscapes at nightfall : “I am inspired by the vast array of luminous man-made colours that transform our towns and cities from bleak and depressing spaces by day, to vibrant and colourful fairgrounds by night.”
Respected writer and art historian Ian McClurg- Welland recently commented:
“Angela Wakefield’s art is now attracting the attention of private collectors and galleries. The approachability and affordability of her art is refreshing against the backdrop of the industry’s perception. The fascinating appeal of her urbanised utopias is reflecting a change in attitudes further afield. Her work is cutting edge, unique in execution, and without doubt breaking through.”
A variety of pieces from Angela’s Urban Landscapes series are currently being exhibited at Ascot Studios. The pieces are acrylic on canvas and range in size from 8” square to 4’ square. Angela tells me how the series evolved:
“The Urban Landscapes are my main passion. I start by taking a series of photographs. Sometimes I can take up to a thousand photos, but I will choose only one, which I know will work as a painting. Mostly I will have an idea of exactly how I want my work to end up and I will work to that end. I paint when I feel inspired which can be any time of the day or night, whenever it feels right.”
Even to my untrained eye, each of Angela’s Urban Landscapes exhibits emotion and intensity. The energy and vivacity which bring each piece to life are a reflection of Angela’s vibrant and passionate personality. Angela tells me that opening the gallery is her biggest career landmark to date. She explains that starting out as a young artist, it is difficult to know where to begin:
“I didn’t know where to go to make my dream of becoming an artist and owning a gallery a reality. I did a business course, which gave me confidence and helped me with the day-to-day basics of running my own business. Places for new artists to exhibit are few and far between and many galleries just don’t have the facilities for contemporary artists. As an artist you will paint anyway, but you have to be persistent. My main piece of advice to anyone starting out would be to join a studio, it’s so important. It enables you to get support, maximise your skills and learn from others.”
On the day I visited the gallery, a potential buyer drops in and expresses an interest in a selection of Angela’s pieces. She’s thrilled but also, surprisingly, seems somewhat saddened. Of course, she opened the gallery as an outlet to exhibit and sell her work, but it is clear that she has an emotional attachment to each of the paintings. She tells me about one of her pieces, ‘Jazz Band’. “I loved that piece. It was inspired by an amazing, enigmatic jazz band that we saw playing in a restaurant in China Town, Manchester. I was so sad when it went but pleased too because I knew it went to someone who would appreciate it. A good home.”
A selection of Angela’s work can be viewed between 11am and 5pm, Monday to Saturday, at Ascot Studios. With work ranging in price from £250 , the current exhibition of her work represents an exciting opportunity to invest in a unique piece of original British artwork. As Angela’s reputation as the rising star of British art spreads, the time is surely coming for her to say goodbye to many more pieces from her Urban Landscapes collection.
Angela Wakefield is an honest and engaging member of the national art community with a positive enthusiasm for painting and life in general. Angela has been painting seriously for the last ten years, but one of her earliest memories is of spending hours with a pencil and paper, recording the world around her. Her dedication to painting is unwavering, and to this day, she still enjoys the creative process as much as those early childhood days. In the media, there is often a cynicism about people’s motivations in the art world, both in terms of the artists who produce and the people who buy contemporary art. However, over the last few years, the sheer amount of people who have been affected by Angela’s work, many of whom have travelled hundreds of miles to see it, shows the universal appeal of her painting.
Since Angela was first featured in Art of England magazine in 2007, there has been an increasing level of anticipation for her new work, and 2008/9 promises to exceed all expectations. With industry professionals paying an avid interest, and collectors paying thousands for her originals, there is an acceptance that her artwork represents a sound financial investment. She is a young, emerging artist with a growing national reputation; she produces work that resonates with a broad range of people, offering enduring representations of contemporary landscapes.
Her new paintings are positive, colourful and energetic depictions of a very English landscape. Angela presents a version of the urban environment stripped down to its essence, capturing the behaviour of light and employing an imaginative use of focal-point and perspective. There is a sense of movement and energy in her paintings which serves to place the viewer in the picture.
Her recent focus has been on relics of the Industrial Revolution the re-appropriation of Victorian property in urban environments. Main Street, Moor Lane and Janice’s are locations that reflect experiences of her current environment in the Ribble Valley.
Main Street is a voyeuristic overview of a winter evening in Clitheroe and the view from the castle is an impressive panoramic, offering the perfect vantage point for observing human behaviour. Interestingly, this location was painted by L.S. Lowry back in the 1950s on one of his many visits to this quaint market town.
Moor Lane is a quintessentially English terraced row of shops, independently owned, struggling to survive, each with their own individual architectural style. There is an unusual ambience created by the streetlights and shop window lighting spilling out into the street and onto parked vehicles. Janice’s is a thriving sandwich shop in Ribchester, feeding residents and also visitors to the historic Roman village.
Park Road, Bingo Hall, and Corner Shop relate to her childhood memories of Accrington. In remaining true to her roots, Angela draws upon her strengths – the familiarity and knowledge of her immediate surroundings.
Park Road is the very street where Angela grew up as a child and she knows the place intimately. Bingo Hall is a place she was taken to as a child, and represents good old-fashioned working class culture and entertainment. For the participants it is as much a social club as it is a gambling game. The setting of the bingo hall is in one of the most run-down areas of the town, with a constant stream of traffic passing through on the old trunk road.
For many, the Corner Shop represented the hub for communities of people before fierce competition from the chain stores arrived. There can be no greater symbol of the changing sociological climate of England during the 1970s, and of the changing landscape Angela grew up in during the 1980s.
In summary, Angela portrays the traditional centres of the community which bring people together or where people tend to congregate. There is also the sense that she is attempting to record the current social climate and the arguable breakdown of communities in some of our towns and villages. Contrastingly, she also provides the viewer with positive examples of private enterprise and social mobility.
In any case, whilst presenting strong images of these environments, Angela compels us to ask questions and analyse further the meaning and relevance of the work. People often preoccupy themselves with analysing the technical aspects of a painting and lose sight of its intention, effect or contextual meaning. As with any artistic genre, the resultant interpretations and reactions are completely subjective and can be hard to predict. However, there is something in Angela Wakefield’s artwork that evokes emotional responses and resonates with peoples natural instincts.
Ian Welland returns after three years to interview the brilliant urban artist Angela Wakefield and assesses her latest work, inspiration and direction….
In viewing and assessing urban artist Angela Wakefield, I can only describe her work as having total integrity. It is real, experienced and ensures there is no confusion. In many ways it fixes us to the everyday, but, in other ways, her work allows us to breathe occasionally and move the scenario from canvas to dialogue. It is this movement and the association of the realism with contextual meaning that first captured my senses fully in 2007 when I visited the artist at her studio.
So where is Angela today and, moreover, where is she heading and what continues to inspire her? Whilst assessing a batch of her latest work, I took the opportunity to speak with the artist again…Read More