Saturday, December 10, 2022

Somerville Artist Sophia Ainslie: An artist of movement and color.


I met Somerville artist Sophia Ainslie at the Vernon Street Studios on a cold day in November. She was part of their Open Studios event. She is a woman that exudes flashes of energy and her work is reflective of that energy.

How has Somerville been for you as an artist?

Somerville has provided me with a studio in a building with other artists. I’m grateful to work amongst others rather than in isolation.

You incorporate a lot of dashing colors in your work (at least from what I have seen) and after viewing them I had a sense of movement—that the painting was actually moving. Do I need a psychiatrist—or was that your intent?

Hahaha! I think you need a psychiatrist ( laugh). Different works have different personalities and different intentions. There may be a lot of movement in my work and perhaps that’s reflective of my environment in someway - nothing stands still..

I see the movement in my most current work almost like a frozen gesture because of the way that it’s made. it often begins loose, gestural and spontaneously but then I go over the gestural spontaneity to flatten the paint, almost as if I’m capturing that gesture and freezing it in time.

I've read that you often try to achieve a bodily experience when you are painting, rather than a conceptual one. Explain.

I am a very physical and experiential person, aware of my surroundings and how they affect me and others. I am also process based. I balance concept with the bodily experience of process. I need a concept to begin my work. But I’m not interested in illustrating the concept. The concept gets me started and then the process directs me. The process is the bodily reaction and experience. I’m working from my core rather than my head.

You have done a lot of work with murals. I was reading about one you did with your students at Northeastern University. What draws you this type of expression?

I’m drawn to large scale indoor murals because it allows me to work much bigger than I possibly could in my studio. This changes the work on multiple levels.

Formally, the lines become thicker and the shapes become bigger. This gives it a very different presence in the world. The viewer becomes much more engulfed in the work. It’s more experiential.

A bigger work that is painted directly on the wall becomes apart of the architecture. I am very aware of where the work sits within the architecture, the relationship of the work to the ceiling and the floor, or whether there are duct pipes or other skeletal features of the architecture. all these components become part of the work and influenced the way I compose it.

It also becomes a full body experience. What I mean is I’m painting with my full arm and my whole body rather than my wrist. I become part of the work. The work envelops me. it’s much more experiential and at the same time, more intimate too. The painting and I become extensions of each other.

If you had to come up with a mission statement for your work what would that be?

I was with my mother when she exhaled for the last time. After her death and began using a single x-ray of her abdomen combined with my surrounding landscape as source material. It proved to be a way to hold onto her memory and absorb the meaning of her passing; the resulting shapes and marks led to the development of a visual language.

The process began by projecting the x-ray onto paper and tracing specific shapes of organs and spaces between organs. These were then painted with acrylic and Flashe in flat opaque shapes of color commemorating the body. I would then react to the shapes making spontaneous marks in black India ink. As the work involved I began using the computer as a cutting tool to ‘collage’ carefully selected shapes and marks. Almost as if performing surgery, areas were fragmented, reconstituted and ultimately mapped through light projection.

In the last three years, my contact is shifted away from the content of my mother’s body to looking deeply at structure and relationships- of scale, color, application, The manner in which shapes meet and the specificity of the edge they create in their meeting. Often beginning with observation as a starting point, my paintings and with the look of abstraction. They are a translation of what I see and experience.

Ultimately it’s a celebration and orchestration of color, line, shape – the visual elements in the work and their relationship to each other. And creating a sense of democracy between these elements - a harmonious coexistence and sense of equality. It’s a conversation of trial and error, which when successful opens my eyes to new and surprising outcomes.

To find out more about Sophia    

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