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The work of Sophia Savagner explores corporality, identity and mysticism. Born in 1997, she grew up in the South of France, where she studied psychology. Her practice started with expressionist oil painting portraits that slowly became three dimensional masks.
Looking at your art for the fist time I thought of three words: bestiality, subconsciousness and hybridized. How do these three concepts affect your work?
I think we all identify as animals before humans. What’s interesting in this animal characteristic is the animation, the movement that comes from the animals and also the sense of fear. I’m interested in how we grasp things, in invisible phenomena. The mask is not gonna show you anything that’s invisible but it will make you understand that there are many things that you can’t see. From the morphological features of the mask you are gonna conclude and create something in your mind in a process totally unconscious. That’s what I’m trying to do with the masks, not create a final thing but this feeling that you are trying to grab something completely elusive.
I think what I’m creating is very primal and archaic, somehow representing the impulses into our bodies. This hybrid sense you’re describing makes sense, because for me it’s actually the irreference that is interesting, going beyond time. You are actually opening the meaning of things and this is why I’m hybridizing everything, not only animals and species, but also shapes. The artistic process works through the convolution of shapes and it reminds of the convolution of the flesh itself.
Where are you from and why did you move to Greece?
I was born in the US but I grew up and lived all my life in South France, where I also studied psychology. I have no idea why I moved to Greece. To be honest I’m not gonna make up an answer because I don’t know, I just wanted to start a new artistic life and I thought I needed something very fresh and new. I thought “OK, what’s the warmest country in Europe- I really don’t like the cold”. So I visited Athens and I decided I like it and here I am.
I like the urban environment and I like that sometimes my art speaks to the streets creating this urban dialogue.
Tell me a bit about your work. What made you focus your artistic interest in three dimensional masks?
Masks are just evolution. I used to do oil paintings so I think it is just how it evolved. They are three dimensional because they are more symbolic, like a stage between the painting and the sculpture. I’m more interested in the shape of the movements than the color itself. That’s why they always look like moving sculptures.
For me they are like poems in a way. A poem does not describe the feeling, it just gives it to you instantly.
Have you ever worked in theater?
No, never. The masks themselves don’t really have a purpose, they are not made for something, otherwise they would be a character or something you can define.
Name some artists you’ve considered as an inspiration during the years of your work.
I’ve been working with the masks for 2-2,5 years now and I’m not inspired by other mask artists. I do like some artists’ work, like Francis Bacons’, but i dont think his work is really relevant to mine and I wouldn’t say I’m inspired by him. I’m more inspired by feelings.
What does it mean to be an eco artist ?
In keeping with my environmental ethics, all the masks are created with upcycled, repurposed materials and eco-conscious techniques.
The way I live is actually eco-friendly in general. I’m vegan and I always do things in the simplest, cleaner way possible. The streets provide resources that are transformed into masks, that are themselves transformed into images that are brought back to the street. My art matches the Athenian space because nature doesn’t really exist.
We are nature, in a way, that’s why it clicks so much. The city is our “natural” environment.
It’s actually a very immature process, I’m using quite unnoble materials. It’s very easy to be honest, it just takes a lot of time, and that is what is not easy. I mainly use newspapers and free press, so my work is basically sponsored by the stores who give it away freely.
Even with the glue I use, I make it myself with rice, simply by overcooking it with water. Sometimes I use the sauce out of the noodles I cook, by overcooking it too. I eat a lot of chocolate, I use the golden leaves of its wrapping, it’s very very simple, I just use my own trash.I will use plastic and not throw it away, I will use as much recycled material as possible and I will use things I have had for years. I try not to buy and I don’t really throw things away.
The paper I use hardens with the artificial glue, becomes very solid, but you have to wait a lot. If it’s not hot it can take more than a week to dry. I first do the structure and I wait for it to harden. If it’s not the texture I want at the end, I glue more paper, and so on till it hardens enough for me to draw or add fabric on it. Everything is glued. You can use every fabric, you just have to glue it differently so it keeps its colors and texture. The only thing I actually buy are oil paints, although I am trying to make my own colors. It’s pretty easy if you just find the pigments and mix them with oil.
There are so many free resources everywhere, why buy something in the art store? For me that means you don’t have a definite idea of what you wanna do. I also use a lot of recycled stuff from the streets’ trash, like fabric. Here in Athens we actually have so much trash I don’t even have to look that deep, I can walk my way back home and find something useful. I used to walk around with a pair of scissors because I was finding chairs with fabric I wanted to use, so I ripped it out sometimes.
Do you manage to make a living solely out of your work?
Financially, no. I have another job, but my art drives me everyday so I couldn’t actually “live” without it.
You recently moved to Greece from France. What new challenges did you have to face as an artist working in Greece?
Language barrier aside, I don’t really see a difference because I think I’m too young to make a comparison. In Greece people have been really welcoming and although others have warned me that maybe in Greece they wouldn’t be interested in my art, I don’t think that’s true. I think that people have a different perception of culture here. For example the idea of “the culture people” in Greece is used for people who have interests and are not wealthy, rich or faking their interest, something like hipsters. We don’t make fun of someone for being an intellectual.
We recently had the chance to exhibit a piece of your work for our tribute to the female orgasm. Do you identify yourself as a feminist? Do you think that reflects in some pieces of your art?
Well, I don’t identify myself as a feminist, i just I am a feminist. It’s so obvious and I don’t know how you can’t be a feminist. I think it reflects in some of my art, in an unintentional kind of way, because i have had this kind of feedback, people telling me that they can see it I am feminist. I think mainly due to the freedom of expression. Primal impulses and sexuality are conjoined in my work but in an instinctive kind of way, flesh and body do not only have sexuality related connotations for me.
How is this kind of art interesting for a person living in Greece? How can such images actually affect our conception of Death, Spirit and Nature?
People say my art is original and I really love it when I hear that because that’s what I wanted to do.
When you look at any artwork, it affects you because you have been affected by something that will be triggered by the artwork when you see.
Ιt’s not really the art that affects your life but your life that affects the way you perceive art.
You think the image is seizing you, when you are impressed by something, but it’s actually the other way around. You seize the image.
Death is a subject that I don’t think should be so negative or taboo at all. I ve been searching and reading a lot and to be honest this subject is actually very motivating because, let’s face it, you can just die anytime now and that should be motivating.
When you see baroque art, it’s about the passion of the flesh saying everything the language cannot say. I think, through the masks, I’m also trying to say that language can be limiting.
We are contained to our body but our desires are infinite and they will never fully get out. That’s what the masks are about.
What are your aspirations for the future as an artist?
I’ve done small events and I am looking forward to doing some other, bigger exhibitions and on another scale. Honestly, I just want peace. And maybe war. Eruption but peace, something like that. I hope Peace and War is something already getting through my work.
Make sure you follow Sophia Savagner on her Instagram account.[modula id=”14445″]
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