Sophie von Hellermann
We meet artist Sophie von Hellermann (b. 1975, Munich) at her studio in Margate, as she created brand new paintings for her Frieze London 2023 solo booth with Pilar Corrias Gallery. It's an epic installation including a giant hand-painted mural alongside a new series of Margate-themed paintings.
Dreamland, Margate’s iconic funfair, is the inspiration behind a new body of work, featuring carousels, Ferris wheels and soothsayers. Opening in 1870 as a ‘pleasure garden’ set within the coastal resort of Margate, where the artist lives and works, Dreamland has become a symbol of classic British seaside culture: bawdy revelry, tongue-in-cheek humour, decaying grandeur and sepia-tinted sentimentality.
Bringing the funfair to the art fair, von Hellermann builds a carnival populated by a menagerie of characters from literature and popular culture: bathers frolic, seagulls swoop across swirling, Turner-esque skies, and lovers embrace in shadowy corners of the Victorian seafront shelter where TS Eliot wrote his classic work, The Waste Land (1922). Unburdened by the gravities of everyday life, Dreamland’s thrill-seekers begin to sprout wings, or career off into new phantasmic landscapes. In one painting, a group ride tiny cups down an eerie, rainbow-hued river; elsewhere a visitor to a house of mirrors dances and flirts with his own reflections.
As in Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing (1767–8), a painting that epitomises the playfulness and joie de vivre of its era, von Hellermann deliberately reclaims a host of clichés associated with pleasure, frivolity and a temporary loss of control. In her rapidly executed tableaux, von Hellermann fuses the trivial and the grandiose, playing with traditional rules of seriousness and propriety in painting.
Sophie von Hellermann’s paintings recall the look of fables, legends, and traditional stories that are imbued with the workings of her subconscious rather than the content of existing images. Her romantic, pastel-washed canvases are often installed to suggest complex narrative threads. Von Hellermann applies pure pigment directly onto unprimed canvas, her use of broad-brushed washes imbues a sense of weightlessness to her pictures. Von Hellermann’s paintings draw upon current affairs as often and as fluidly as they borrow from the imagery of classical mythology and literature to create expansive imaginary places. In subject matter and style, von Hellermann tests imagination against reality.
Sophie von Hellermann (b. 1975, Munich) received her BFA from Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf and an MFA from Royal College of Art, London. She lives and works in London and Margate, United Kingdom.
and visit Frieze London until Sunday 15th October. Sophie's solo is located at Booth A23.
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