Sophie Cape, from elite sport to extreme en plein air art
Sophie Cape has been named winner of the 2021 $30,000 Paddington Art Prize with her work entitled Songs of Shrieking Bones. She chats to Anthony about her journey from life as an elite sportsperson (downhill ski racing and track cyclist) to an artist who describes her process as “extreme en plein air” and her paintings as “psychological self-portraits”.
In her current body of bushfire works, of which Songs of Shrieking Bones is but one, Cape comes “down off the featherbed of civilisation” and goes out into the bush for days or weeks at a time and responds to what she sees and finds on location. She incorporates materials such as charcoal from burnt trees, soil and ash and other found objects – bones and the blood and the earth of the landscape are on the canvas: remnants of native fauna, their lives obliterated by the unforgiving ravages of fire, but with an overwhelming sense of pathos she conversely immortalises them by impregnating their remains into the canvas. She makes impressionistic sketches of what she sees by looking at what she is drawing rather than looking at the paper on which she draws. The works are then completed in the studio, they are immersive and meditative, sublime and cathartic. Her canvases are large scale, her work process driven and almost theatrical in the doing. She seeks to unite polarising opposites or dichotomies in order to find a nexus, or resolution. “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 and pain of the human condition”. Her work engages the viewer seeking to transcend language and touch the soul.
She exhibits at the Olsen Gallery where you can see many of her works.
Wednesday 3 November 10.30-12.00