My name is Sophie Crichton, I was born in Toronto in 1993 and I am a 27 year old abstract artist living in Barcelona. No children, no pets. Working on the pet part. “He who jumps into the void owes no explanation to those who stand and watch.” Jean-Luc Godard. I love this quote. To me this exemplifies the courage one needs to take risks.
PIECE WITH ARTIST
JAN 26, 2021. BARCELONA. SPAIN.
Tell us your story, how did you come to painting?
I grew up in a creative home, both my parents are creatives and worked in the photo business in Toronto, and that really made an impression on me. Our house was filled with art and design objects and books. I was exposed to this environment from an early age which started to form my aesthetic. From this, I began to develop an eye and gravitated towards art, and specifically drawing with a loose hand and blind contours.
In high school I kept these mixed media sketchbooks that grew to be so massive and over flowing with things glued inside them, that I couldn’t even close them. I travelled in South Africa and Australia and it was there that I decided that I really wanted to go to art school. I studied at Sheridan College and Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, but it wasn’t until later that painting became more serious for me. When I moved to Barcelona I did a year at Metáfora Studio Arts where I started my painting practice seriously.
How would you define your current painting?
I like to be careful about defining my work as it is still an unfolding process that I am discovering, but for the sake of understanding I would say it is some where near neo-abstract expressionist. I’ve heard the term ‘post vandalism’ kicked around which resonates with me. I like to leave some space open for interpretation. My work is a reaction to, and a manifestation of my perception of the human experience. Although being an artist requires a lot of solitude, I love that as an artist you are tapping into the collective human experience. That awareness manifests in my work.
The work is an exploration of how I perceive my world around me. I am Influenced and energised by the milieu of a city, street culture, and the patina of the urban environment. I am intrigued by traces of narratives and memories everywhere. The urban landscape visually inspires my work; tangled wires, graffiti, the patina of grime and grit, layering of posters on walls. The contrast of light and shadow. I love the chaos of urban cores. The constant cycle of decay and renewal.
Tell us about your style and technique. Any secret that can be told?
I start with an underpainting by building layer upon layer, evoking the textured walls of the city environment. These layers point to a sense of transience in terms of memory, and physically, as the passage of time leaves its mark. I am a nostalgic person and I often reflect on memories from Toronto. Neon lights of Chinatown reflecting in puddles, the grid of tangled wires over head. Some times the colours I use are evocative of memories from night life experiences in these urban cores.
I let mistakes happen and they lead my process. I have developed certain types of markings and gestures that I repeat as a sort of abstract vocabulary, these tend to be automatic and loose. Sometimes I discover a certain technique that I repeat in works before I have to break away from it. At times the original painting becomes completely obscured as it takes on different lives and transforms over time. Sometimes I will leave a painting for months and rediscover it with new eyes six months later. The tricky part is resolving the work.
As for my secret? I love the Picasso quote: “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working”.
How do you usually start your paintings? With a sketch, a draft or is it just an improvisation?
I very rarely plan what I am going to do, I love the immediacy of a gesture and the spontaneous flow when I start to work. The initial markings and gestures are what lead the composition and act as a backbone. From there I work in a zone of intention and purpose. The freedom to experiment and play is essential to my work. Although this can result in a frenetic mess, the trick is refining the work and bringing it back down to only the most necessary parts.
I employ the elements and principles of my training, but I also love to step away from them. Usually I start my works on the floor so that I can walk around the canvas and work with it from all angles. Eventually once it is a bit developed I move it upright and continue working. Sometimes I work on a painting individually and other times I have more than one on the go.
What are your motivation forces? And the artists who have been and are an influence for you?
I’d say an original motivational force was seeing and learning about artists when I was younger and kind of being in awe of these people and thinking “wow this is really cool, I like these ideas and this is a life I want to create”. I was fascinated by the work and exploration of artists. I think the thought that art is a form of community and discovery, not just of yourself, but of people and the world compelled me. I initially found the art world intimidating and sometimes still do, but I knew I had to pursue my creative internal force.
Some of the artists I draw influence from are: Antoni Tàpies, Cy Twombly, Eva Hesse, Ruth Asawa, Rothko, Basquiat, Tracey Emin, Louise Bourgeois, Yoshitomo Nara, Franz Kline, Christopher Wool and Miró.
What can you tell us about your studio, what kind of place is it?
Well It’s smaller than I would l prefer and messier than I would prefer. I dread the day I move and have to attempt to clean the floors. It’s organised chaos though, a happy mess. The floors are increasingly covered in paint which I personally believe adds to the ambiance. (obviously haha). I have works lining the walls that change in rotation and kind of act as a dialogue with current works in process. Sometimes I turn the works around so they are facing the wall when I need more visual silence. Music is very important and absolutely feeds my work so I usually have music playing while I am there.
What is art for you?
Art is so much. It answers and it questions. For me it is an accumulation of my experience. The creative drive is something powerful, a deep unrest that drives me to leave a mark and give statement to the way I see and feel the world. Art is community and also solace in solitude. Art helps to materialise, understand, and articulate things we can feel but can’t describe.