Beneath The Surface
For someone with a Master’s Degree from Elam School of Fine Arts, a Bachelor of Design and Visual Art as well as a Certificate in Interior Design, Sophie Foote is astoundingly humble and unpretentious. “I came to art by accident really and fairly late. I grew up in an art-free zone. My parents lived practical lives, as did their parents before them,” Sophie says.
After spending her twenties and thirties bringing up eight children (two girls and six boys) it was time to find a passion outside of the home. “I initially signed up to a design course to learn how to make my own furniture. One of my tutors suggested I had an artistic sensibility and encouraged me to explore contemporary art.”
Contemporary art concerns itself with all sorts of current ideas, from science and politics to literature and technology. Sophie creates digital artworks, based on close-ups of everyday treasures mixed with surrealistic elements. She uses computer programs like Photoshop and PhotoImpact to incorporate multiple photographs like layers of paint, applied intuitively for colour and texture. The work is printed on large-format matt paper with highly saturated colours. “As a child, I was given a good camera by my grandfather. I always took close-ups of flowers and insects. They fascinated me, like finding treasure. I still have that experience. In my digital artwork, I’m translating the jewel-like quality of the insects to their environments and creating visual narratives.”
In Sophie’s final year of art school, her programme leader, Peter Robinson suggested she read Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia by Roger Caillois, which proved a revelation. ”For me, reading that essay initiated a union between making and critical thinking. Which is highly ironic since the central idea of the essay is ‘insects that mimic their environments are manifesting a universal pathology like that of the schizophrenic who suffers alienation from his physical senses’.
“It just so happens that my birth-father was a diagnosed schizophrenic and suffered similarly. Suddenly my graduating project took on a poignancy I hadn’t anticipated. My studio focus of a marriage of hand-craft and digital photographic post-processing took on the power of metaphor as I experienced empathy for the man I’d hardly known,” Sophie says.
After her graduation in 2015 Sophie and husband Ian, renowned Head Potter at Morris & James, went on their first OE together, travelling around Europe to explore the classic works of art. “This was something we had dreamed of doing together for a very long time and were free to do, once our children had left home. It was mind-altering!”
Sophie’s artistic interests are broad. She’s longing to make jewellery again and she also wants to make personalised artworks based on close-ups of each client’s own special treasures. This year, Sophie plans to undertake a project which wrangles all the techniques, materials and objects she’s gathered over the years, into an all-encompassing feast for the senses. “I will make a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ or ‘total work of art’, which addresses the emotions and intellect through all of the senses,” Sophie says. “An answer to my desire to make art that you can operate and hold in your hands. Art that serves.”