It could open doors

New Contemporaries exhibition by Sarah Brown
New Contemporaries exhibition by Sarah Brown
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THE names read like a who’s who of British creative talent over the last half century: David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Antony Gormley, Paula Rego.

Now joining that illustrious list is a rather less well- known lass from the Manor.

Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown

At just 22, Sarah Brown, of City Road, Sheffield, is one of only 40 artists selected from more than 4,000 nationwide entrants to exhibit work at this year’s New Contemporaries exhibition.

The event, which has previously provided a platform for those prestigious names above and which is held in a different city each year, is one of the most high-profile in the UK’s art calendar. To put it in context, being chosen to display there is a like being picked to play for England Under 21s at football.

And it’s even more special for Sarah because this year, for the first time since 1993, the touring exhibition is being held in Sheffield .

“My first reaction when I was selected?” muses the Hallam University graduate. “I couldn’t really take it in. I was just wondering what the judges saw in my work, I suppose.”

New Contemporaries exhibition by Sarah Brown

New Contemporaries exhibition by Sarah Brown

What they saw, at the most obvious level, was a series of pencil drawings featuring doors and cupboards. Not the most exciting of subjects, perhaps – but there’s hidden meaning in the sketches.

“They’re inspired by Alfred Hitchcock films or stuff like The Shining,” says Sarah, a former Myrtle Springs School pupil. “I wanted to create a feeling where you start to wonder what’s behind the door, like what’s hiding round the corner, what’s waiting for you.”

So... what is?

“Well, that’s up to the person viewing the work,” says Sarah. “It’s left to their imagination to decide. I’m not going to say my interpretation. They have to go with their own.”

New Contemporaries exhibition by Sarah Brown

New Contemporaries exhibition by Sarah Brown

One thing not open to interpretation, however, is that the judges were impressed.

With New Contemporaries, which has run annually since 1949, each piece is anonymously shown to a panel of three experts. There are no names, ages or locations tagged to the work so each is assessed solely on its artistic and aesthetic merit.

“That kind of makes it even more special to be chosen,” says Sarah, who is a volunteer working for Arthritis Research UK.

And perhaps even more exciting is that the exhibition is being held in Sheffield – at S1 Artspace, in Trafalgar Street, and Site Gallery, in Brown Street, both city centre.

“I’ve taken all my family along for a look,” she says. “I’m the only Sheffield person on display so it feels like I’m the local representative.”

Now, she’s hoping a few ‘fans’ will turn up to show their support.

“Eventually I’d like to work in art therapy,” she says. “But for now, it would be lovely to get some recognition for this.”

n The exhibition runs until November 5. The whole show is then exhibited at London’s Institute Of Contemporary Arts from November 23 to January 15.