Sharna Jackson
Artistic Director
@ Site Gallery

This morning was generously hosted by Site Gallery.

‘People say you go into autopilot when you’re grieving but for me that wasn’t the case. My grief manifests itself in a way that’s a catalyst for both personal change and creativity.’

Sharna Jackson AKA Artistic Director at Site Gallery, is at the helm of Sheffield’s international contemporary art space. Site Gallery specialises in moving image, new media and performance.

She is on the board of Sheffield Doc/Fest, Upswing Aerial Arts and New Writing North, in addition to being a member of BAFTA’s Children’s and Learning and New Talent committees and the Children’s Media Conference advisory board. Sharna has amongst other fabulous endeavours, created and curated Tate Kids. Having recently published her debut children’s novel ‘High-Rise Mystery’, Sharna has now begun scripting an animation with a company in Finland.

‘I think I might be the only black, female, young artistic director for a gallery in the country which is great for me, but is terrible.’

In addition to working Sharna has a healthy but all encompassing obsession with Dutch barges made before 1950. Including having lived on the water in London for eight years.

For Sharna, when her mum died in 2010, grief became a real catalyst for change and creativity.

‘That process has been one of the most defining moments of my life.’

Her mum’s cancer diagnosis came just six weeks before her death and through this surreal lens was seen as a ‘good death’, she was told. Not a shock but not too prolonged.

Then came lots more surreal moments. Each surreal situation has led to something creative, intriguing stories, a new idea or in the case of the gravestone, hours of design and more obsession.

‘Surreal begets surreal means those bizarre dream like situations I found myself in, for me, have led to more random situations, which I actually really like.’


Today we recognise a sense of the surreal in unexpected moments in daily life. Art exhibits like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room are becoming readily available, encouraging people to immerse themselves in experiences that break reality. A ballet performance or silent meditation retreat can be a dreamlike experience.

Whether we experience a surreal moment or dabble in processes like drawing without thinking or writing without self-editing, there’s something to be learned about ourselves and what lingers under the hood of our desires to keep life orderly and controlled.

This morning was generously hosted by Site Gallery.