Work by a young artist from South Tyneside has caught the eye of Charles Saatchi, a famous art collector and spotter of budding talent.
Three pieces by 22-year-old Jill McKnight have been bought by the Saatchi Gallery whose founder helped to make the careers of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and others who became known as the Young British Artists.
Like them, Jill, who grew up in Seaburn where parents Pauline and Geoff still live, has just graduated from Goldsmiths College in London, where she attained a first class degree in fine art.
Before that she completed the one-year art foundation diploma course at South Tyneside College.
In 2010 The Journal reported on Jill’s achievement on being accepted by Goldsmiths College.
“I am so happy that I have been accepted,” she said.
“It has a fantastic reputation and is one of the leading universities to study art.”
Clearly she has built on that early promise with staff from the Saatchi Gallery drawn to her degree show at Goldsmiths and to work displayed on her website.
Jill said she was very surprised when she got a call from the senior director at Charles Saatchi’s gallery
She said: “She asked me about the availability of a selection of my works. A few days later I got another call confirming he wanted three pieces.” Charles Saatchi is now the owner of two pieces made of expanding foam - Cup, inspired by African tribal sculpture, and Chicken After Guernica, inspired by Picasso’s famous depiction of the Spanish Civil War - and a third, Bob, made of bandages and plaster and based on her own haircut.
Jill said: “It’s very rare for a young artist to sell anything at the moment because the money isn’t around like it was when Damien Hirst and others broke on to the scene.
“Mr Saatchi’s support is fantastic and has given me so much motivation to do well.”
The former Whitburn Comprehensive School pupil said she had no idea what the collector planned to do with her pieces but it would be “wonderful” if they could be exhibited in his gallery.
South Tyneside College lecturer Nick Banks, who had tipped Jill for great things, was delighted at her success. “It is tremendous that her work has been picked up by Charles Saatchi who everyone knows has a great eye for talented artists,” he said.
“She did very well on her college course and benefited from inspired tuition and from working in an excellent environment.”
Jill has now landed a job as an assistant at London’s Serpentine Gallery. She hopes to mount a joint exhibition with a friend in October.