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Brush with death transformed to art

The Daily Telegraph 17/5/12

Elizabeth Fortescue

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On February 17 this year, Sophie Cape was painting alone on an Austrian mountain side, when a terrifying roar of wind heralded an avalanche. The Sydney artist was buried, along with 4 large canvasses laid out on the snow. Cape creditis her survival to her past life an an elite ski racer, which gave her the skills to withstand the natural disaster. The same avalanche engulfed Dutch prince Johan Friso, who as skiing in the next village. Cape says the Prince has been left in a coma. It was -30C when the avalanche hit. "It's like being dumped by a hideously big wave," Cape says. "You don't know which way is up. I was able to pull myself out, but the works were gone." Cape eventually found all 4 canvases and was actually very pleased at the damage they sustained. "One is full of holes from the pickaxe from digging it out," she says. "But that's part of the process. It's exactly what I wanted, because I use what's in the environment." Cape's life is replete with tales of danger, all of which she laughs off as "me being an idiot." Ten years ago, she retired from downhill racing after breaking 57 bones in a horror fall. She hadn't even been near snow since then, until her artist's residency at the five-star Arlberg Hospiz in St Christoph put her in the path of the avalanche. "I have a knack for getting myself into extaordinary situations." Cape says. Her mother Ann Cape is a Sydney painter. This year, both were finalists in the Portia Geach prize for portraiture, and gave a joint floor talk. Cape dubbed her seven St Christoph works the "avalanche series" and is showing them this week at the Hong Kong International Art Fair 2012. Two have already sold. As for her next body of work, she is waiting to see what her next "silly escapade" will be. 

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