Top prize nomination for Brighton artist who explores what it is to be human

A University of Brighton graduate has been named on a shortlist of five for a top art prize – from 330 submissions.

Sara Lavelle, who graduated from her Illustration undergraduate degree last week, was nominated for the ACS Studio Prize.

The winner of the award – which is announced in mid-September – will receive a cash prize of £6,000 and a studio space in the UK city of their choice.

The judging panel consisted of artists Eileen Cooper OBE, Rob and Nick Carter and Lady Bridgeman CBE, founder of the Artists’ Collecting Society (ACS).

The judges were highly impressed by Sara’s figurative painting and portraiture, with Lady Bridgeman praising the “maturity” of the work.

Self portrait at Minnesota Fall 2016

Sara said: “Winning the ACS Studio Prize would mean everything to my career. I feel grateful that I have finished my degree with a sense of purpose, excitement and confidence in what I do.

“I am bursting with ideas and am excited to keep painting. My work is starting to get recognised and I feel as though I am on the cusp of establishing a professional practice.”

Sara added that her art was “integral to who I am” and that she “never feels more alive than when I am fully involved in a project”.

She said: “I have known that I wanted to be an artist since I was five years old. It was my immediate response to anyone who asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. There is no specific reason why, just that art has always been the focus of my life and something I wanted to devote my life to.”

Sara was born in Norway and moved to the Cotswolds when she was a toddler. She grew up in Gloucestershire before completing a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Falmouth University and an Illustration BA(Hons) degree at the University of Brighton.

Her course of study included a semester at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Minnesota.

Describing her style, Sara said: “My work focuses on painting and drawing the figure. I want to be able to access the authentic experience of how it feels to be human.

“I believe that individuals are increasingly becoming detached from their essence, especially with the rise of social media and virtual reality. All around me I observe how identity is presented rather than experienced and embodied.”

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