Sophie Vallance's practice as a painter is an intense examination of the experience of moving through life. Painting itself is such a solitary act, which primarily creates the means to only have a conversation with oneself. This exchange allows her to explore the persistent cycle of fighting and feeding, changing, slipping and just trying to be okay; one day it’s a joke with her greatest fears and inadequacies, the next, a shouting match before she gives up and goes to bed.
Taking the form of large square canvases rich with naive, representational symbolism, her practice is charged with immediacy; the act of making is an urgent search for relief. Characterised by quick flurries of activity and long periods of looking in between, her decision-making process is meditation like in nature, actively challenging the need she has to control the world around her. Painting becomes an exercise in being present, an antidote to rigidity and restraint; a starving of the parasite.
Ghosts, shadows, eyes watching, riding cosmic cats, clams, pearls, swords, thrones, conversations in the woods, pissing in the street, asking the cat for advice, lists, incurable sadness, no fucks, praying, manifesting, fighting, napping. Encounters are founded in reality and brought to life in imagination, with the existence portrayed in the paintings hovering somewhere in-between. Anxious and irreverent, cocky and self-examining, whimsical and tense, these divergent positions are woven into the very core of each canvas; just as it is possible to hold two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accept both of them.
Rife with self-referential citations, and deep-rooted shadows that lurk alongside an unexplainable Magic, no painting is completely individual; each is in conversation with the previous and the next. Layers sit atop layers, the presence of old choices peek through the surface, sloppily covered; they exist as part of the old and the new work. Drawing heavily from her personal zeitgeist, she salvages phrases from songs, conversations, films or books, and paint words directly into the imagery of the canvas, a personal nod to the moment they were made. Each painting is a weighty object, not a flat image, so in her studio, she props them just off the ground on bricks or toilet rolls; she likes them at viewer level, not elevated; and when she has the choice, she chooses to exhibit them like this too.
Although self-reflectivity is centric to the work Vallance makes, this exchange is also greatly informed by external dialogues which are already happening in the world around her. Vallance's own voice and praxis exist between feminist practices, cathartic art making, processes of confession, folklore, storytelling, and historical events, as she ruminates on these sources whilst engaging in both personal examination and painting alike.
In a practice so permeated with symbolism; historical, original, contemporary and banal; her strongest ally is the emblem of the cat. Just as mysterious as the act of painting itself, she prowls the recesses of her mind, and of her studio, changing shape from painting to painting. Strong but fluid, personal yet universal, she is the manifestation of Vallance’s vulnerability and a manifesto for her empowerment.