Engelmarie Sophie: The Art of Duality

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.

Dialogue by Engelmarie Sophie

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.

Le Doute by Engelmarie Sophie

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.

être different dans l'indifference by Engelmarie Sophie

“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.

il voulet être dif. by Engelmarie Sophie

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.”

rose by Engelmarie Sophie

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.

Current projects

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.

agnusdei by Engelmarie Sophie

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/

Daryl Brown: My Mother Holding My Now Dead Cat

Walking into Daryl Brown’s new studio was like following the walls of a labyrinth until finally stepping into a room alive with organic structures that watched over the artist like protective sentinels.

Daryl Brown from his series, "My Mother Holding My Now Dead Cat"room alive with organic structures that watched over the artist like protective sentinels.

My observation caused a chuckle from the sculptor.  “They’re almost like a gang,” he responded.  “A bit threatening.”

It had been over a year since I’d first visited Brown in his studio back in Hackney.  On that day in August, he seemed gentle and unassuming.

Yet in his new studio in Stratford, Brown appeared to have taken on a new confidence.  His movements were relaxed as he circled his works talking about the process of their creation.

Pointing to one he remarked, “This one is unfinished.  It’s really tricky.  I’ve always felt quite weird about it.  I’m often tempted to destroy things, rebel against them.”

My Mother Holding My Now Dead Cat

Brown’s sculptures are part of a theme that has been a reoccurring vision of the artist.  The first sculpture of the series ‘My Mother and My Now Dead Cat’ was shown in The Magnificent Basement by ALISN, an organisation known for it’s inclusive support of artists in London.

Using a variety of materials, Brown has stayed true to his vision never wavering from the original theme, yet evolving this vision into the sentinels that stand in his studio today.

Upon looking at the sculptures, does the image of Brown’s mother holding his cat become apparent?  Each observer must decide that for themselves.

But what is immediately noticeable is the organic quality of the sculptures.  They each embody a life; an ironic factor since the

Daryl Brown from his series, "My Mother Holding My Now Dead Cat"

theme touches on death.

Binary Opposites

Whether or not the irony in Brown’s work is a conscious act on his part is something else the observer can determine.

For example, one can hardly think of the theme of the sculptures without noticing an element of both tragedy and comedy.

Brown himself describes his work as “gritty and urban”, yet the theme suggests something sentimental and sweet.

Together, the sculptures stand as ‘a gang’ and yet the artist who created them is soft spoken and non-threatening.

“I wanted to show a loving embrace and then destroy that,” says Brown.


Brown’s method is as abstract as the sculptures themselves.

He seems to add components using a variety of materials.  Each sculpture can standalone because each is uniquely formed.

Some of them embody what could be viewed as chaos, perhaps an element of the death theme, with wires that give the sculpture a

Daryl Brown from his series, "My Mother Holding My Now Dead Cat"

more technical appearance.

Others are softer and white, like amorphous bodies.

And still there is a darker figure and even a colourful body that appears to have human organs, which supports the idea of life.

Yet, one cannot escape the fact that these are sculptures, no more alive than the materials that form them, the now proverbial ‘dead cat’.

This it what makes Brown such an interesting artist, the opposing views that are conveyed in his work.

Like his previous Judo series, the artist is interested in the human form, but also in the progression of his work.

“I don’t want to lose this image of my mother with the cat, but I am not bound by it.”

Brown’s work has caught the attention of several art organisations, including the London Art Fair 2012, which will take place from 18-22 January next year.

The artist’s work will also be exhibited at the Residence Gallery in Hackney from 2 February 2012.

Bella Easton’s Dog Kennel Hill

Once you walked in the door, you couldn’t miss it.

Bella Easton's "Dog Kennel Hill" from inside the installation

This may have been ALISN’s largest exhibited work yet.

Taking up a great deal of space, Bella Easton’s “Dog Kennel Hill” seemed a magical portal to the unknown.

What was interesting about the main piece featured in ALISN’s latest exhibition was it could not be pinned down.  Engaging and vocal, the work invited the audience to interpret the message that was being conveyed from multiple perspectives.

Dog Kennel Hill

The installation inspired a great deal of conversation.

Having what could be seen as Matisse-like influences, a closer look revealed a montage of tiny pieces of dark paper, hand-coloured to produce an almost stained glass window effect.

At times, the colours met together in a corner of the piece to produce strange, dark faces peering back; and at other times, a city of lights, shimmering water or talking mouths.

Easton’s piece was tactile, and the crowd could not help but climb inside of it’s house-like structure.

There was a spiritual nature to the work, acting as the safety and shelter of a church.

The lighting only added to the feeling of warmth and worship, reflecting the various colours.

A connection with nature

Yet, Dog Kennel Hill still suggests a connection with nature, as the separated pieces do not keep those within the

Bella Easton's "Dog Kennel Hill" - The inner ceiling of the installation

roofed side of the work completely indoors.  This is enhanced by the feeling of shimmering sunlight on the walled piece.

The strength of Easton’s work is that it gathers together different techniques and images that in essence, produce a solid effect, a solid structure.  And Easton seems to have done this in such a way that the final outcome appears serendipitous rather than intensional.

One is seduced into giving much thought to the piece, long after walking away from it.

Easton’s work, ultimately, does what great art is meant to do: challenge the artist’s range of capability and engender a variety of perspectives and discussion.

If Dog Kennel Hill is any indication of Easton’s talent and ability, audiences should expect other great works from her in the future.

For more information about the artist and her work, go to www.bellaeaston.co.uk

Off the Clock: From Assistant to Artist

Saturday night, ALISN – an artist-led organisation – presented ‘Off the Clock’, an exhibition featuring artists, who have assisted other well-known artists.

An upclose shot of "Quercus Condido Pt. I-III" by Matt Blackler

The works in ‘Off the Clock’ included paintings, illustrations and sculptures.

Yet, the main focus of the exhibition seemed to be the artist’s assistant, a role typically obscured by the fame of the main artist.

‘Off the Clock’ takes notice of the lack of recognition of artist’s assistants.  In fact, it is done rather well – in part – by a display of emails framed in wood, of responses from major artists.

ALISN reached out to artists whose former or current assistants were asked to exhibit works in ‘Off the Clock’.

Some of the emails actually praised the assistant.  There was, for example, a direct quote from Sir Anthony Caro lauding Gary Doherty for his ten years of assistance.

Other artists, however, responded via employees of the gallery or organisation in which they worked.

The Exhibition

Many of the pieces in ‘Off the Clock’ relayed a common theme of desolation.

Benjamin Deakin, who assists winner of the 2002 Turner Prize, Keith Tyson, created an illustration of a jagged hole in the ground.

By looking closely, one can just see the faded stencilled words that read ‘DEAD ARTIST’.  The drawing depicts an open grave, and ghostly figures seem to dance in and out of the detailed illustration.

A section of "FP 12:16" by Gary Doherty

Gary Doherty’s large drawing depicts a loan woman looking over a city that she seems very much disconnected from.

However, the second image of her in the illustration that appears at the end of a tunnel-like hole indicates that she is somehow watching herself rather than the city.

Reuben Negron’s painting was of a half naked woman alone in a room.  His use of watercolours and gouache were interesting, giving the painting a graphic novel feel.  The images come to life, creating a certain measure of intensity within the loan figure as she pleases herself in bed.

Yet, perhaps the most obvious feeling of desolation was the painting by Allison Edge, who assisted artist Jeff Koons.

Part of her Magic Forest series, Camp Thunderbird, oil on canvas, depicted a campground scene with several tire swings hanging off of a rope.

"Camp Thunderbird" by Allison Edge

Edge’s painting has a magical and eerie feeling, and one is compelled to ask why no children or people inhabit it at all.

Yet, the pieces, which depicted certain ghostly characteristics, were offset by some equally interesting sculptures.

Daryl Brown’s Mother and Cat was a sort of Escher-esque sculpture of wood.

With Brown’s recent Judo Series in mind, it is interesting to see how the artist continues to play with gravity.

The sculpture, though seemingly heavy on the top is held up by a single metal pedestal, which disappears into the bottom of the piece.

Brown has assisted artist Gereon Krebber, who won the Jerwood Sculpture Prize in 2003.

Another sculpture, which evokes discussion, is Alison Gill’s Stray Object. A model of a tiny brown bird with a broken wing is in the centre of a large cube.

At first, one may think of a bird within a cage, except that the large box-like cube has holes carved in varying sizes, allowing the bird to escape once he is mended.

One side of "Stray Object" by Alison Gill

Gill’s approach asks viewers to contemplate the bird’s circumstance and the bird’s fate.

Gill has assisted YBA member Gavin Turk, who, in a strange turn of events, will assist her on a sculpture in one of the upcoming exhibitions.

Matt Blackler’s work with wood seems to speak loudly of nature.  The round wooden pieces, at first look, seem like slices of a tree – something a lumberjack would produce.

A closer look reveals that the wood has been manipulated in such a way that perhaps alludes to one of its former states.

Blackler, who assists Gordon Cheung, often works with wood, creating sculptures that require a great deal of physical work.

Other artists whose work will be shown in ‘Off the Clock’ are Rachel Beach who has assisted Roxy Paine, Jason Bryant who has assisted Kehinde Wiley, Sy Hackney who has assisted Eamon Everall and Jenny Morgan who has assisted Marilyn Minter.

The ‘Off the Clock’ series, sponsored also by Like the Spice, will continue in both London and New York as follows:

9 to 17 October, The Magnificent Basement Gallery, 128 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3AP

14 October to 14 November, 92Y Tribeca Art Gallery, 200 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013

4 November to 6 December, Like The Spice Gallery, 224 Roebling Street. Brooklyn, NY 11211

4 to 17 November, Mile End Art Pavilion, Mile End Park, Grove Road, London, E3 4QY

ALISN: A resource for young artists

No one expects to leave university with an art degree and immediately land a place in a major gallery.

Anna Bleeker, Jordan Dalladay-Simpson & Iavor Lubomirov

In London, one of the most art-focused cities in the world, there are far more artists than opportunities.

Yet, through a combination of open-mindedness and insight, two artists were motivated to look outside of the art world for a little help.

Iavor Lubomirov and Jordan Dalladay-Simpson, frustrated with the political framework that had become a consistent part of the art world, began knocking on the doors of property developers.

“When you live in a difficult world, it’s easy to forget how much joy it can give a property developer to join in the journey,” said Dalladay-Simpson.  “In a way, a property developer is an artist too.”

ALISN was born

Their persistence paid off and ALISN inevitably was born.  ALISN, which stands for Artist-Led Initiatives Support Network, is an organisation, which focuses on arranging

Iavor Lubomirov's work with paper

exhibitions for students and recent graduates of art school.

This collaborative effort is non-profit and encourages a sense of community by focusing on the art and the artist.

“For us,” said Anna Bleeker, one of ALISN’s coordinators, “art is about getting together with friends.”

This is achieved mainly through the donating of a space by the owner of a property after and, even sometimes during, a refurbishment.

Lubomirov, who believes that there simply aren’t enough people creating opportunities outside of the art world, sees these donations and collaborative efforts as an essential part of the process.

“How do you continue as an artist and keep Bohemian principles?  There are many collectives around London, squat spaces, cafe’s… Exhibiting art does not necessarily mean being in a gallery.”

Stephanie Batiste's 'Light Fitting + Bulb'

An exhibition of paper

One of ALISN’s most recent efforts, was on 26 June, which showed the works of Stephanie Batiste and Lubomirov himself.

Lubomirov, working solely with paper, combined his knowledge of Mathematics with creative vision.  The precise detail in his works gives an added dimension and depth. The way the flat sheets are combined, forces the viewer to consider volume.

Stephanie Batiste's 'Radio + Plug Socket'

Batiste’s works are equally compelling.  Her three-dimensional models are so accurate that one of the visitors of the exhibition couldn’t understand why the light hanging from the ceiling wasn’t turned on, until someone explained to him that it was made entirely out of paper cards.

The exhibition was a testimony to the level of creativity and talent that exists amongst young artists in London.

This joint intellectual effort continues in upcoming exhibitions like Daryl Brown’s ‘The Judo Series’ at The Magnificent Basement located at 128 Farringdon Road on 24th July from 7:00pm to 9:30pm.

If you are an artist or someone interested in art and wish to meet other art enthusiasts, ALISN urges you to get in touch by visiting http://www.alisn.org

Follow the Elephants

Elephant Parade © Candice Elizabeth Ashby

The first time I ever saw an elephant face to trunk, I was about seven.

My parents had taken me to the zoo, and although I had seen elephants on television, nothing prepared me for the majestic, wrinkly-skinned pachyderm that stood before me.

And so, I did what any seven-year old would have done when confronted with such immense beauty.  I cried and ran behind my mother’s legs.

Yet, after receiving a lecture on the merits of not being a cry baby, I saddled that gentle grey giant and took the required family picture.

Today, it is sad to learn that elephants in Asia are in danger of being extinct.  But as luck would have it, there is one organisation that has decided to do something about it.

Enter the Elephant Parade

This month, Elephant Family, the only UK organisation dedicated solely to saving the Asian elephant, has launched London’s biggest ever outside art installation.

Artists, designers and donating organisations such as Diane von Furstenburg, Tommy Hilfilger and BFLS have each been chosen to design one baby elephant of the 260 plus that will be displayed around London.

The money that will be raised by this event, which will go on through to July when Sotheby’s will auction off the elephant art, will go to raising awareness of the elephants and creating ancient migratory routes between forests, which are dwindling in size due to industrial development.

The founders of Elephant Family are father and son team, Mike and Marc Spits.

To make donations to Elephant Family, click here.