Adventurer: Sophie Varin's Tiny Creations @ Fortnight Institute, NYC
As a pervading feeling of ambivalence infiltrates everyday lives, we find ourselves drawn to the notion that there is still beauty in this world. We’re hungry for a dose of honey, and with that in mind, the sweet and subtle painting practice of Sophie Varin and her current solo show, Adventurer, at Fortnight Institute in NYC is very seductive.
Although she works with sculpture and installation in large scale, Varin's painterly work focuses exclusively on a miniature scale, which feels perfect to many of us confined to smaller spaces. With oil on cotton paintings measuring between 2 to 4 inches at most, the French-born, Brussels-based artist deliberately chooses to produce dreamy visions that draw in and challenge the viewer. "Painting still feels new to me somehow, and it is hard to put my finger on precise reasons for such miniature sizes," Varin told Juxtapoz about her method. "I believe it could come from my interests for fiction, curiosity, suspense, and clues." Garnering attention with her invitation to “come closer” creates an experience that is hypnotic in its initial mist, but achieves clarity as one surrenders to the moment. "I think, as a spectator, this size puts you in a situation where you feel curious to witness something that seems to be refusing itself to you at first. Maybe like a desire for something seemingly resistant, small lures. At the same time, I hope these miniatures carry an unimpressive, non-authoritarian, and generous energy."
The dozeon tiny pieces that comprise Adventurer follow the ramble of a picaresque figure venturing through a saturated, vague but vibrant atmosphere. "Maybe a kind of torpor," Veran suggests about the ambiance. "Caused by high heat, drowsiness, or a form of a desperate quest. This torpor can be felt in the landscapes' temperature or happening to the characters depicted, but it could also be induced in the viewer’s experience of his or her own gaze."
Starting with a portrayal of common scenes of conviviality, people eating together, bathing, cooking, kissing, or bickering, she proceeds to distort such familiar moments into something more ominous. "It can come from the characters’ suspicious behaviors, some fantasized landscapes, or from the colors I use," she explains about "weirdening up" such familiar vignettes. "In general, I like to create scenes that are both recognizable and unsettling. I hope it can create a relation to the painting that carries the uncertainty of a dream or an apparition." Things may not be what they seem, and as the saying goes, sometimes you really can catch more flies with honey. —Sasha Bogojev