You persistently open the surface of your work--realizing this was the first moment I felt there was a body there, in the work. Is your intention a physical implication? If not, how do you see the role the open places play?
I began opening up the surfaces of raw, unstretched canvas and using external processes from other modes of making/being--working with clay, gardening--in order to explore animism, abstraction, and embodied experiences. I’m still interested in relative flatness though--the thin, crispy, quasi-husks of paintings these works become. I also recognize the body in the physical work of folding, pulling, or twisting the surfaces. People frequently bring up other senses when they encounter my work, like sound, or a desire to touch the canvas. The holes you ask about are passages where seeing can trespass onto the other senses. I think of these voids or holes as spaces of potentiality that register the complex experience of looking in time and space. Flipping between image and material creates a dimensionally untethered circuit and perhaps this is where a body exists.
In this new body of work you place a barrier between the viewer and the color in your work, a grid which is actually just a void of paint, an absence of brushwork. Can you speak to this decision?
The barrier or grid in this new body of work operates as both a viewing device to scaffold and suspend looking, and also as a site of contradiction. The “Slopers” series came out of conversations about the body - its seams, its seamlessness, its coverings, structures and so forth. I want to know: how to make a circular painting that holds the space for the abandoned rectangle? In these works, the grid (painted or void of paint) is an orderly structure that performs the role of a foil, punctuating the fluid marks and pours of the image. This grid operates like an absent grid. I’m interested in the repression and protection these systems seem to create. There’s a linearity, but the figure and ground relations refuse to be locked.
Medusa Medusa (a work with an absent grid) is a piece I made after returning from my honeymoon to Sicily to the wreckage of a presidency. It has to do with wetness and vulnerability of seeing yourself being seen and the fear of loss of names.
The glass beads make the work shimmer, which I read as your quotation of indeterminacy, the inability to be sure of how light will touch the surface of the work. What do you consider the function of these beads to be? How would you relate them to your use of color?
The glass beads give the husks some gravitas! The indeterminacy is vital. This effect is not unlike the tension I hope to create with shifts in scale: the glass beads ask the viewer to come in close and focus on the detail, but then when your eye moves and you remember you’re in a large expanse. They function with my use of color to resist the temptation to identify limits. It’s about moments of recognition interspersed with abstraction. It’s also about seduction, transparency, and magnification (an inherent characteristic of glass spheres). My use of color is both directive and misleading, in that I may use a vivid blue or pollen-like yellow to attract, but then I will veil it with the atmospheric film of glass beads.
Sophie Grant with NM Llorens
Sophie Grant (born 1985 in Santa Cruz, CA) lives and works in New York City. She received her BA in Painting from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2008, completed her MFA at Hunter College in 2015, and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2015. She is a current artist in residence at the Hercules Art Studio Program and the Keyholder Residency Program at the Lower East Side Printshop in New York. She has been a former resident at The Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna, FL, The Pajama Factory, Williamsport, PA, Painting's Edge, Idyllwild, CA, and was the recipient of the Kossak Painting Travel Grant. Her work has been exhibited at Field Projects (New York, NY) and Underdonk (Brooklyn, NY), among others. Publications include The New York Times, Hyperallergic, The Artist's Institute Hunted Book Series, and New American Paintings. Grant currently works in Education at The Whitney Museum of American Art and as a full spectrum doula.