Ahead of our print release with Sophie Vallance Cantor, we paid a visit to her South London home/studio which she shares with her husband and fellow artist Douglas Cantor, alongside their two cats Luna and Autumn.
After studying painting at Camberwell College of Arts, Sophie (b. 1993, Glasgow) has developed a painting practice akin to a visual diary filled with existential semi-truths and feline avatars. To spend an afternoon in her studio is to step into a life-sized storyboard of an as yet unwritten film made up of bar hopping motorbike rides and therapy sessions.
Your current work has an increasingly cinematic feel to it, with neon signs and twilight skylines providing the backdrops to many pieces. In my head they could almost be stills from a film. How much is each painting created in isolation vs a continuation from the last?
Sophie: Even before I began to explore and lean into the more cinematic visual elements in my work, I always saw painting as a practice and never really about stand alone works that just spoke by themselves.
I remember very early on likening it to a cake, with each painting acting as a very thin slice, each in conversation and sharing space with the slices on either side of it. Right now I think that each painting often reads like a still from a film, but the narrative between scenes of the film isn’t clear or linear so the viewer can piece together and fill in the gaps themselves.
You have painted cats throughout your career, what role do they currently play in your work?
Sophie: Painting cats has undeniably become a cornerstone of my practice and it’s something I get a lot of enjoyment out of. Cat and tiger paintings are almost exclusively based on my real cats at this point and they’re an amazing vessel for expressing any mood you want in a painting. Often they end up with an amazing ambiguity. There are many fine lines – is it snarling or grimacing? conflict or joy? playing or fighting? And that’s something I like to lean into in the paintings.
I began painting cats because I was searching for something honest and authentic to me. I think that the fact that I’m still painting them now means I found what I was looking for.
Self portraiture is a fundamental aspect of your practice, has your perception of it evolved over time?
Sophie: Self portraiture feels like a never ending journey rich with both personal and historical interest for me. Some of my favourite works of art by other artists are self portraits, in my kitchen I have both Robert Mapplethorpe and Frida Kahlo self portraits. I’ve always had a fascination with the mindset of what it means to live and breathe being an artist, beyond just the polished finished works and self portraits have always felt like looking right into the mind of an artist.
In my own work I have witnessed my self portraits become more honed and specific, although they sort of change shape from painting to painting, scene to scene, they feel undeniably like me when I look at them. I think they also give great insight into how I am feeling when I make them, or maybe where I’m aiming to.
You have been an exhibiting artist for 8 years now, what is one thing you’ve got better at?
Sophie: Knowing myself enough to not just say yes to what someone says they want from me, but to kindly offer what I actually want to offer.
What is your favourite thing about being a full time painter?
Sophie: Undoubtedly, it’s not having to work in tiring service jobs to support my life and my practice anymore, and I have a lot of gratitude for that!
What is your least favourite thing about being a full time painter?
Sophie: I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I have mentally always tried to keep a separation between the process of painting and creating and the career aspects of being an artist, in the hope of staying as honest as possible. But since painting fulltime I do feel a certain self imposed pressure to keep making income, even if I don’t let it dictate what I make, it sort of inevitably ties the two things together with a thread, which never used to be there.
If you could only paint in one place, where would it be?
Sophie: Home. My studio is now at home by choice (even though it began as a necessity many years ago). It’s the place where I can be the most vulnerable, the most honest, where I can turn up as I am. Wherever home is, studio is.
One Deliveroo order for the rest of your life, what is it?
Sophie: A slice from Joe’s Pizza in New York, simple.
‘The Manifesto of Naina’
7 Colour Original Screenprint
81 x 81cm
Limited Edition of 50
£500 + Shipping
On Sale at 1pm
Tuesday 4th April
via our Webstore