Sophie Cape’s paintings and etchings come from an interesting place. As a former elite athlete – she was a champion downhill skier who had to stop due to multiple injuries – her approach to art is very much the same as it was in her former life. Now, rather than train and compete in competitions she fights with the force of nature in an attempt to express herself, to push boundaries, endure the emotional journey of mark making.
Cape’s work is often made over a period of weeks in the Australian outback where she exposes both herself and her work to the elements, each composition an expression of her relationship to the landscape. This physicality, her use of soil, bone, charcoal, pigment give her work a viscerality, primal mark making that is reminiscent of the paintings by our ancestors, a need to say ‘I exist’.
This is incredibly honest work, moving and extremely physical, an action almost, a deep desire to reconnect. Here’s what she says about her work:
For me, Nature encompasses not only the landscape but also humanity. I am interested in the extremities of life. Of exploring the space where beauty and horror meet. Because in life one cannot exist without the other. Be it the contrast of cruelty and kindness in humanity, or survival and decay in the landscape. We believe we can control this world and ourselves, but as Nature is forever showing us, it is a force beyond us.
Her artist statement is more carefully crafted but definitely worth reading:
Oscillating between abstraction and figuration, the work of Sophie Cape straddles the sublime with a cathartic expulsion of energy. Exploding with violence across the page, her works are vast in scale and performative in their execution.
Working outside in the desert, free from constraints, using unconventional mediums and revelling in their gross materiality, Cape excavates her unconscious in the desire to rip the figure and face wide open. These works are psychological self portraits, voicing the dialogue between the internal and external landscape, and of past and present experience.
The contrast of survival and decay, be it in a desert landscape, in the physical body, or in the mind, is where Cape is searching for what lies between the beauty and the horror that is the exquisite tragedy of the human condition. Offering a theatrical encounter with the spectator in the hope of breaking through language, to touch life.