Before entering the Olsen Gallery to see her exhibition, I knew nothing about Sophie Cape. And therefore I will try to avoid digging in her life to explain my first encounter with her art. Of course, I did some internet research afterwards, and her story completely shocked me, but at the same time I kind of expected something like that: the force of her life’s traumas and ordeals also explode in her art.
There is a indeed a violence in these huge paintings, in these organic black and brown splashes, as well as in their sombre titles: “The long, deep trough of silence”, “Tearing like escape through the dark” or “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”, after Dylan Thomas, to name a few. You feel the rage of the process, her art is visceral, raw, painted in the forest or in abandoned places, with materials found on site, soil, rust, ash, even her own blood. You can feel the artist’s fight, with the canvas, with the nature, with herself.
And yet these paintings are far from being saturated with dark tones; there contain in fact more white/ivory/beige areas than sombre ones, like a gentle light spreading through the canvas, a struggle for freedom. Natural objects – little bones, leaves, even butterflies – are also glued to the work, as a frail natural presence in this emotional storm, creating an intriguing tension.
The process is amazing; the result too, in every detail, even to the framing. The canvas is screwed on dark wood, held back by these ruthless rusty pieces of metal, slightly crinkling, as if wanting to escape.
An impressive, powerful experience.6