A multidisciplinary practitioner with a skill for contemporary visual manifestations, Sophie Cunningham is a multifaceted artist currently practicing, alongside working as a freelance graphic designer and film and TV production assistant, based in London.
Sophie’s processes, methods and thinking in terms of her practice are catalyzed by her curiosity in human obsession with ritual and celebration. Her work addresses the religious, social and cultural rites of passage that validate our existences, appearing as a form of visual anthropology that skillfully reasserts familiar socio-cultural norms and events as somewhat uncanny.
Material choices are conscious and deliberate in Sophie’s work. Her direct employment of substances and objects as materials creates personable relationships between works and the concepts that charge them; previously crafting artworks in anything from talcum powder to holly communion dresses. A favourer of moving image, drawing, installation and performance, her shows are immersive, polygonal experiences that exploit the nuances of her subject matter and the materials it informs. The Flood, encompassing works created during an artist residency in Florence, is no exception to this approach.
The Flood focuses on events that took place on November the 4th 1966 in Florence, Italy. A catastrophic flood caused substantial damage to Florence, rendering many of its artworks and archives impaired or destroyed. Through the multidisciplinary works, Sophie responds to this event, exploring the public response to Florence’s devastation by retelling the efforts to save and restore its cultural heritage. Asserting the deep bond between people and the visual culture and heritage with which they identify. Affirming humanities existential need to preserve its tangible cultural heritage – its perpetual presence.
Sophie methodically and perceptively refocuses and reconstructs the processes experienced by Florence’s damaged artefacts; playfully selecting and arranging materials to create a dialogue of works permeated by the extraordinariness of the events of 1966. Lemon Bed Attempt One, with a sharp scent of lemon and an uneasy structure, commemorates the conversion of The Limonaia, a winter shelter for lemon trees, into an art hospital where the injured were treated. A doctor clad in white coat nurses Mary Magdelane to good health with his paintbrush in Mary Magdelane, this image is reasserted to ceremonial status in Memorial Flag, where it is appliqued onto fabric, ready for display. Cleverly, Giovanni, is a regal stenciled figure in wood, carefully dusted in talcum power on the gallery floor; a delicate and poignant visual evocative of the use of talcum powder to draw out moisture from damaged artworks. On the far wall of the gallery, 100 empty La Nazione pages beam out; inviting viewers to offer their own headline page in A Gift From Glasgow. Sophie intends to send these to the National Library of Florence, bringing The Flood full circle in its cultural documentation and offering a diplomatic gift of appreciation and affection to Florence itself.