Cloverdale photographer has an eye for art

Paul Sharpe’s artworks resemble paintings – from up close the swirling colours seem to resolve into thousands of fine brush strokes.

Yet the longtime local resident actually began as a photographer, and the works on display this month at the Malek Gallery in Langley City are an outgrowth of that artform.

Sharpe is originally from Lincolnshire in England, and came from an artistic family. One grandfather was a sketch artist, on the other side of his family, and a grandmother created seashell art.

After studying art in secondary school, Sharpe got into photography at 19 when he bought his first camera in Hong Kong.

“I just enjoyed making colourful photographs,” he said.

He worked professionally, doing product photos for catalogues and brochures.

Meanwhile, he followed several of his other family members and moved to the west coast of Canada. He lived in Murrayville for 15 years and has recently moved to Cloverdale.

His transition from professional and hobby photographer to digital artist came about at one of the lowest points in Sharpe’s life.

“I’ve been really depressed for five years,” Sharpe said.

He began using art to drag himself out of his depression. The first creations weren’t done with the idea of showing them publicly, Sharpe simply wanted to express himself, “and create something totally different, that I’d never seen before,” he said.

“Each piece starts off as a long exposure photograph,” said Sharpe.

It would be hard to guess that from the finished product, which takes days of work to create from the original image.

Through digital manipulation, Sharpe creates abstract pieces with often vibrant colours.

He has developed some unique techniques of manipulating the images, Sharpe said.

Each one begins with no idea of where it will finish, the image “constantly changing” until it’s done, he said.

He will give no indication of what the original photograph was that became the eventual finished artwork. He wants to leave it up to the viewer’s imagination, and to “keep the conversation going,” Sharpe said.

He loves watching people trying to work out the meaning of the painting for themselves.

Sharpe does have some themes in his works, including contact with aliens. His painting Greys is alive with colour, but the title refers to the aliens who allegedly contact humans from flying saucers.

Sharpe hadn’t planned to show his works to anyone for some time, until he was urged to do so by his family. While he’s self-deprecating about his work, gallery owner Toby Malek has encouraged him to put his art out for display.

Malek says Sharpe is a conceptual artist, working through a digital medium.

He said Sharpe’s images are both illustrative and abstract, and they remind him of Persian miniatures in their use of colour.

One of the paintings at this month’s show, Rushing Through Your Veins, will be given away as part of a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

Rushing Through Your Veins and Sharpe’s other works can be seen at the Malek Gallery at 20573 Fraser Hwy., through July. For more information, visit www.themalekgallery.com.

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