Sophia Szilagyi Q+A | Eternal Shift
Eternal Shift is the first collective exhibition featuring the work of Greg Wood and Sophia Szilagyi. An artistic connection between them lies in their deep reach to the semi-conscious state of the mind’s eye, expressing emotion through sublime silent landscapes, beyond the visual of a landscape as we may see it.
‘There is something very calming in the disarray of the natural Australian landscape. Initially things may seem jarring but over time this settles. One can’t help but adapt this sentiment to the confusion of our times – I often tend to turn to nature for direction.’ – Sophia Szilagyi.
Your art offers us a portal to imaginary lands, and during a time when we’re unable to travel, it offers us the sanctuary that travel once did. Tell us about the real or imagined places that most influence your work?
My work evolves from a combination of my memories and not from a photograph of a real place. Wilsons Prom in Victoria is where I have been fortunate to holiday over the years. It’s a favourite place for me, I’m drawn to its variety of ocean, land and sky. During this time of lockdown, I am going into the garden every day to photograph the sky… Is this a real or imagined place? I spent a while living in Scandinavia and the landscape there is very ordered, neat and has a particular green which Australia doesn’t have. My work draws on these memories, so my work is quintessentially Australian with classic undertones of a European landscape.
Your art practice has developed from a background in print making, yet some may think you’re a photographer. Tell us about your methodology?
I am definitely not a photographer, but I use photography as a means of recording a place. Beyond this, I layer my work with light, colour, drawings and fragments of other images to create more of a two-dimensional experience of an abstract memory of a place. There seems to be a universal experience of nature, not entirely, but elements of it are universal – we are often in awe of nature and I work on developing its sublime beauty and ethereal power. Nature holds deep mystery, along with peace and stillness, which is what I love about it. You notice a different sense of self when you’re surrounded by nature. Although we don’t quite understand it, during this pandemic period, nature is one of the best grounding tools we can draw energy from – nature is the answer! My work is about recreating these elements of the landscape to make it look more the way it can feel.
Since your solo exhibition with Otomys Contemporary at this time last year the world has shifted significantly. How has your approach to Eternal Shift, been different – what’s the theme you’ve taken into this exhibition?
OK … so many, so many things I have explored. The overall title Eternal Shift has led to a more specific study of the space or the duality between movement and stillness, interesting given what we have just been talking about. For this exhibition I have been in lockdown so not able to go out and take photographs or spend time surrounded by nature, so I have gone back to previous imagery, to my past, to my memory of a trip I did to Tasmania three years ago. These works are very different in that they focus on a typical Australian landscape, whereas in the past it’s been a more generalised, idealised landscape. My work for Eternal Shift is very definitely Australian – its where I am ‘stuck’ at the moment and it’s a very a good place to be ‘stuck’ I must say! The work for Eternal Shift has less depth than previous works, usually there is a very clear sense of perspective in my work, whereas with the many layers I have used here it has lost perspective and become more of an abstract landscape.
Isolation could be challenging for an artist who draws inspiration from nature. What influences, outside of nature, have inspired your work for Eternal Shift?
For this exhibition music has had a larger influence on my work, as I have been in this one space. In fact it has had such a strong influence that when I stand back and look at the work I almost see it as written music – it’s got the peaks and valleys of the Tasmanian landscape like the rise and fall of musical notes. Music has infiltrated these landscapes. I’ve mainly been listening to classical or neo classical music. I find the absence of lyrics means there’s a more direct connection to the movement and or stillness of the music. Phillip Glass is a favourite and has influenced my practice for many years. His work is hypnotic, grounding and very moving. Weirdly enough I’ve been loving his solo piano piece called Mad Rush, which is odd given the times. I also love the all-time classic – Lakmé, an operatic duet between two women, particularly with the duality of two voices which are opposite but work together and combine a beautiful ‘sounds landscape’.
We are living in fascinating times, how have you managed the journey so far?
As an artist we are quite lucky in that we have a place to invest our thoughts and feelings and ideas – so in that sense it has really been fantastic to just throw myself into my work. I am also naturally a slightly fearful person I suppose and so yes, they are distressing times particularly in other parts of the world, but I keep coming back to myself and focus on keeping that strong, so I can be a benefit to those around me. Fortunately, I am also a romantic person and very hopeful, so I do believe everything is where it should be and that it will work out. We’ve got to be patient with this – its teaching us patience.
One simple last question, what supportive music, reading or podcast can you share with people at the moment?
Listen to Lakmé definitely – it will bring joy to people. I also listen to a fantastic meditation app which I think is amazing – 10% Happier – I’ll send you the link now, I think everyone should invest in this informative app. They’re my two tips to help one get through COVID!
This is a loose transcription of a zoom interview between Otomys Contemporary Founding Director Megan Dicks and Sophia Szilagyi, ahead of the online exhibition opening.