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Painting with an Adrenalin Brush

The Sunday Herald 06/02/11

Alicia Wood

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Somewhere within Sophie Cape’s violent and visceral paintings is her biography. As the dirt and paint intersect on huge pieces of paper, the results tell the story of an elite athlete distraught after injures took away her goals. Cape was a champion skier who changed careers after serious knee and muscle injuries.
“After that I spent a year not being able to get out of bed. Your whole life is centred around these goals, so when that ends, what do you do?” What she did was pick up a brush. She enrolled in a degree at the National Art School and will open her first solo exhibition at Tim Olsen Gallery on Wednesday. The sheer size of her work makes it impossible to ignore, but the stories behind each piece are what will keep you looking. Despite appearances, not all the works are self-portraits. She is not concerned that some may struggle to see them that way. “I’m trying to really push the traditional concept of portraiture.” Along the way she confronted the accidents that changed her life, and the physical stress of training and competing professionally. “It has been a fascinating journey- cathartic in a way. I really craved and missed the adrenalin that came with sport. I was searching for something as dramatic and terrifying as racing was.” Her method is to place a huge piece of paper in the wilderness and “just go for it” – making the creation of a painting a physical and emotional endurance test. “Sport is very much about man versus nature. It is quite extreme, what we push athletes to do; they push the boundaries of nature. Everyone knows about the athletes who make it, but no one knows about what happens to the millions that don’t.”

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