Dimensions: 210 x 210 mm
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Anybody who has met Sophie Layton, or seen one of her spirited colourful works, knows how vibrant and dynamic this young artist is. This exhibition celebrates the particularly energised and artistically-formative recent few years of Sophie’s career. In the autumn and winter of 2017, she was accepted to and attended a printmaking fellowship in Japan. Showing how much the clients of Eames Fine Art believe in this artist’s work, present and future, this residency was partly funded by the gallery’s community of friends and customers, each donor becoming a ‘patron’. Since 2017, Sophie has been building upon the skills and inspiration gleaned from this trip, and fans of her work are rewarded with the vitality of this new collection that combines three different art forms to create something truly unique.
It was during the months in Japan that Sophie learned the mokuhanga (also known as ukiyo-e) woodblock printing technique in its country of origin. Up to this crucial point, her main body of work consisted of monotypes that explored light, colour, and the potential for a rich, painterly quality in print. The levity and translucency of the mokuhanga technique augments these elements in Sophie’s work to a previously-unmet level. Traditionally, mokuhanga is made using watercolour, gouache, or sumi ink - but the artist has found herself frustrated with these pigments. She needs more saturation in her colour and has found alternative paint that gives her the desired results.
While touring Japan and working in several major printmaking studios throughout the country, Sophie became fascinated by the Japanese art of flower arranging: Ikebana. She stumbled into an exhibition of Ikebana works in a Japanese department store and was exhilarated by the unfamiliar compositions and muted colours of the flowers, vases, and other natural elements. By chance, this art form became intrinsic to her prints. Since returning to London, Sophie has discovered a community of Ikebana artists and taken classes in the art herself, using these unusual compositions, so quintessentially Japanese, as the subject for many of her most successful new prints.
The third medium that informs her new work is glass sculpture. As she grew up in a family interested in and practicing glass blowing, Sophie’s process has always been directly influenced by the effect of light and colour on translucent, transparent, and opaque planes. Her fiancé Tim Rawlinson is also a glass artist, fascinated with the way light passes through glass. Since returning from Japan, Sophie has started to look at the glass work that she is so familiar with through the new lenses of a Japanese aesthetic and printmaking. In the beautiful series of works entitled Refracting Light these sculptures become the subject of Sophie’s art and act as a wonderful vehicle for the mokuhanga printmaking technique. But in the months since her return from Japan, Sophie has taken this work a step further and with help from cinematographer Mike Southon, she set up a studio so that she could photograph different Ikebana displays with bright light shone through Tim’s colourful glass sculptures onto them. The effects were dramatic and beautiful and have been the launchpad for a stunning and very successful series of prints.
The combination of these three types of art - Japanese printmaking techniques, Ikebana compositions, and the effects of light shone through coloured glass sculptures - resulted in a new formula, which now sits snugly integrated into the distinctive hallmarks of Sophie’s existing style. They add a novel layer of evocative, colourful, and mysterious currents, culminating in striking works such as Still Life - Willow and Still Life - Ikebana Pot III.
Christine Slobogin, April 2019