OTOMYS: The title Vast and Intimate is intriguing. Can one work be both vast and intimate or are your miniature works a more literal play on the word ’intimate’? (tell us about the title)
Sophia Szilagyi: This title possesses multiple meanings. Firstly, the process of creating a digital print on the computer can be a vast and expanse experience, as I am able to work with complete freedom. Traditional print making, however, is far more intimate in the attentional to detail that it requires and limitations that I am forced to work around.
Secondly, the title also connects the two bodies of work that I have been working on over the past few months. These two bodies of work include a series of photogravure prints produced during my residency at The Baldessin Studio, and separate series of digitally printed works. Despite employing two different techniques, there was an engaging dialogue that existed between the two bodies of work. I was intrigued by the vastness of the locations depicted in my digitally printed works and how they connected to intimate and personal experiences. Yet the more intimate and close-up images of flora created with the photogravure technique awarded me a similar experience; these visual investigations into the microcosms of the natural world allowed for the same self-reflective experience I enjoyed whilst being immersed in the vast settings. Here, it became clear there was a unique dialogue between the vast and the intimate, connected by emotions and experience.
OTOMYS: Can you describe your experience at The Baldessin Studio and how this may have influenced your work for Vast and Intimate?
Sophia Szilagyi: I come from a traditional printmaking background and have built my knowledge and visual language over years of experience. Recently, digital print making has become a core part of this language. However, The Baldessin studio allowed me to reconnect with my roots and manual printmaking. Traditional printmaking has two sides; the creative side, which is where you draw or design the image you want to print, and the technical side, which involves manually printing the artwork or creating copper plates. The technical side is what I have really missed. It is pure skill, technique, manual labour and repetition. It is refreshing to exercise the other half of my brain.
I was still able to incorporate working on the computer with my works at Baldessin, which was fantastic. The etchings are originally made on the computer, where I am able to collage and manipulate my source imagery. From there I attempt the technical process, working on transforming that image into a copper printing plate. This can be both a frustrating and enlightening process, as often an image that looks great on the computer will not look at same as a printed artwork. This is the real challenge with traditional print making methods - I have to constantly keep in mind how my artwork will work from a technical perspective. Nevertheless, I still love the element of surprise and the personality that gets layered into the artwork. The technical process produces an organic and unique outcome every time. Every print is individual.
OTOMYS: Evocative, primordial landscapes have become synonymous with your practice. What draws you to nature?
Sophia Szilagyi: Nature can be both a vast and intimate space. For me, nature is a calming and positive realm where my mind can be free. For example, Delicate Reflection 1 and 2 are representations of my friend’s backyard in Finland. I have such fond and magical memories here, and their garden is a place where I feel truly calm and at home. In order to recreate this experience, the initial reference images are passed through my mind, digested by emotions and memories. From here I work to re-create this recollection, editing, manipulating and layering the source image so it resembles an experience rather than a location. The initial images are often objective and sterile. Photography alone dilutes the emotional subjectivity that informs how we perceive a place in real life and is unable to capture the experience and essence of a place. This is why I do not call myself a photographer - I am a printmaker.
Some of the photogravure printed works are close-ups of plants in my own backyard. These images create an intimate view into a magical microcosm, as I invite the viewer to engage in a close up examination of an otherwise unnoticed and undervalued little plant. The more you look at the plant, the more you see; intricate lines and delicate pores begin to emerge on the surface on the plant.
Vast and Intimate will be on display until 6 April 2023.