Sophie Vallance Cantor : BAD AT LIFE (GOOD AT PAINTING)
And I work and I work all day and night, I wonder if I'm ever gonna get it right.
‘BAD AT LIFE (GOOD AT PAINTING)’ is the second solo exhibition by Sophie Vallance Cantor with Guts Gallery.
OPENING NIGHT - 4 NOV 2021 6 - 9 PM
GENERAL OPENING HOURS - 11AM - 6PM
ADDRESS - Unit 14/15, Penarth Centre Ormside Street, London SE15 1TR
Comprising of paintings, artist sketches and an installation of the artist’s studio in the exhibition space, this latest body of work - and Vallance’s practice in a wider context - acts as an antidote to her experiences of moving through the world as a neurodivergent person.
“And I work and I work all day and night, I wonder if I'm ever gonna get it right”.
‘La Vita’ by Beverly Glenn Copeland.
Autism draws a new set of rules for navigating life, it is easy to feel like you are free-falling, playing along without the instruction manual that everyone else has been given.
The script is flipped as the viewer is invited to experience the world through Vallance’s eyes. Two access points of the exhibition are presented - Vallance's imagined world within her paintings, her window to the outside world and the viewer’s vantage point. Although the viewer is invited into this new world, they are not quite invited to partake in it. They remain the ‘outsider’, witnessing an inside joke that hasn’t yet been explained to them.
Scenes and memories are often exaggerated, domestic cats become tigers and panthers, anxieties become real as monsters laying in the shadows, creeping or looming from the background, stalking beneath darkness in jungles and restaurant bars.
The paintings however, are not focused solely on the struggles faced living with Autism but on the moments of stillness and joy between the difficulties. Moments of poise, of bravery, of boldness, tenderness and rest.
Stillness is a concurrent theme, cropping up again and again throughout the paintings, even in amongst moments of motion and disorder. Sleeping and resting, pausing at the bottom of a squat, posing in the mirror with a tattoo, the moment before the pounce in a cat fight, and sitting at a bar with a drink. These small moments of salvation are elongated and immortalised through the medium of paint, to be savoured and meditated upon. The physicality of the paintings, thick umptuous strokes of oil paint, wet on wet and creamy edges where colours meet but don’t mix, perpetuate the feeling of joy further, feeling the enjoyment of the hand that has made each mark.
Inhabitants in Vallance’s world rarely make eye contact, instead they avert their gaze, wear sunglasses or close their eyes, almost as if they know they are being watched by the outsiders. Her self portraits are ever changing, growing, shrinking and living through the canvases which seem to be chattering in conversation with each other. This conversation between the works is woven deeper yet as the studio itself appears as the backdrop to the paintings, with glimpses of works already in existence re-imagined within the accompaniment of newer works.
At the centre of the space sits the bare bones of Vallance’s studio, the backdrop to the paintings. Her working chair and coffee stained, cat hair covered rug with paint marks and accidents as the central installation piece. These objects as such display the physical aftermath of making and self reflections that have gone into the works on show. A very real visceral evidence of the artist’s presence and action in the space - yet with no current movement, only a sense of stillness and traces of the path already walked.
As the viewer navigates the space between the paintings on the walls and the installation in the centre of the room a walkway is formed from which they are allowed to view the works, never quite crossing the metaphorical boundary into her world, or the physical boundary into her studio.