January 3, 2012 3 Comments
Conjure, if you will, the picturesque imaginings of a 12-year old girl in Germany as she uses her hands to mould something out of the earth.
What does she see as she cradles the soil in her hands? A shepherd tending his flock? An anniversary gift for her parents? The chance to make something that speaks of nature, that is, in fact, of nature?
Undoubtedly, Engelmarie Sophie saw all of this and more. It is the more that perhaps has driven her to the meanings that she conveys in her work today.
As she pattered through her cosy home in France, lithe and feline, one could not ignore the warmth and charm of the woman.
In a big room full of comfy chairs, the walls were lined with art works – some of them created by her.
When she offered me one of her pieces, I blushed. They were all so beautiful and alive, much like Engelmarie herself. I didn’t feel worthy.
The study of art
Engelmarie was taken by surprise when she produced her little shepherd in the soil. Perhaps for the first time in her life, she realised that she could create something.
As a result, in the early 1980s, she took water-painting courses in Frankfurt Germany. Later that decade, she moved to France and worked on her technique.
For many years, she created art without showing her work to anyone. But as she began working on what she called her ‘red series’ she felt something that she could not explain.
“I started to ask myself why I was painting? I began to witness my own movement.”
Engelmarie became aware of new aspects of creation. She paid better attention to her breathing and the progress of her strokes when painting. She would take a step back and observe what she had done, and her work was deeply affected by this change in awareness.
During that time, people in her life, including her therapist, tried to convince her that it was important to exhibit, so she finally began to show her work in Evreux, France – the town in which she lived. Yet she soon realised that Evreux was limited.
“There were many artists who lived in Evreux and who had been networking for years. And there was a limited amount of venues. There were even some artists who knew politicians personally, which made them very difficult to compete with.”
After being refused in situations that seemed unfair, Engelmarie sought galleries and events in different places around Europe. These places were ultimately moved by Engelmarie’s work and accepted her with open arms.
Engelmarie has never deviated from her original connection with nature.
“I prefer to use all natural materials, because it’s a link to nature. When I work like this, I feel linked to the universe. With stones, for example, I can feel the vibration of it going through my body. If you are open, the work will come through you.”
She is a great fan of happy accidents, when pieces and materials fall together in a haphazard way. Engelmarie will notice that something special is happening with the pieces, even if she is unsure of what it is.
I cannot help but be charmed by her again when she likens her situation to Ovid.
“Ovid’s text occurred because of his exile, his separation.”
She was, of course, referring to the famous Roman poet, who was exiled by Emperor Augustus for writing a poem that may have challenged the emperor’s legislation.
In his exile, he wrote poems that highlighted his depression and loneliness.
Yet, looking around the room, I could not relate these sad terms to Engelmarie’s work.
If art is a reflection of the artist’s spirit, then I can only imagine that Engelmarie Sophie is a conscious and brave person, who asks the canvas on which she paints the difficult questions of our humanity and existence.
“In the beginning, I wanted to lose myself in contemplation. But I had to question myself, my way of thinking. I was asking myself, what is art? My art is what people feel when they look at my art, rather than what they judge it to be. It’s to be touched without knowing why. But it’s something that must happen, and this is difficult to achieve.”
Engelmarie believes that if her art moves her, then it is successful. She hopes that the observer is a secondary consideration, which is why she does not wish to be emotionally invested in the outcome of the exhibitions. Engelmarie believes that most exhibitions invite judgement.
I could not help but be excited about the project that Engelmarie is currently working on. She is collaborating with a man from Iran who does calligraphy. The project is multi-faceted bringing together words, light and sculptures.
It is one of the things that stands out most about the artist. She seems to be an art in progress herself, changing and growing, incorporating new techniques with the intention of perceiving her life and her work in a new way.
Though, she demonstrated an excitement when she talked about her future projects, her tone became visibly somber as she described her 2005 project in Dresden called ‘The Interior Journey’, in which she used stone to illustrate the bombing that took place during the Second World War.
As Dresden was the place of her birth, the project was of historical significance to her, but also of personal interest because she lost her grandfather during the night of one of the bombings. Still, of equal concern to Engelmarie were the extreme opposites, the duality of the work, what was invisible and visible.
Engelmarie Sophie today
The years have passed, and Engelmarie is no longer the little girl who was desperate, in an act of mimetic altruism, to recreate her surrounding world.
Now, she reaches deeper into the meaning of those tangible subjects, communicating that which is abstract, but natural.
The semiotics of human existence could be those intangible things that we take for granted, such as duality, trinity, and infinity. These are the abstracts that Engelmarie wrestles with in her work.
These messages are powerful especially because they are as much a reflection of the artist as the art, and Engelmarie would undeniably see herself, her work, and the creation of her work as another tri-unity to be contemplated.
Engelmarie Sophie has artwork in many different mediums including photography, sculpturing, painting, and engraving. Her work can be found in many galleries, including in Brussels, Paris and NY.
To see more of the artist’s work, visit http://www.engelmariesophie.com/