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.

Materials

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/

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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.

Method

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.