In this new collection for the Catto, works such as White Dove display Sophie’s astonishing ability to reproduce the texture and contours of lace. But there is far more than just formal rigour in these paintings.
In 2013, artist Sophie Ploeg won the prestigious BP Travel Award. The prize is given within the BP Portrait Award exhibition to the portrait painter with the best proposal for working outside their usual environment. What was different about Sophie’s winning project was that it involved a journey back in time.
Sophie proposed a trip to the Netherlands and Belgium to explore how fabric - lace in particular - is represented in 17th century art. During her year of study, she visited lace-making centres across the region and studied 17th century lace and art collections. She also sought out less obvious sources such as Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire and the Fashion Museum in Bath.
The resulting work was showcased as part of the BP Portrait Award 2014 exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery. The project brought acclaim and recognition to Sophie, a Bristol-based artist, and also brought her to the attention of the Catto. This is her first major London show.
Sophie’s fascination with the world of 17th century Holland is deep-rooted. She is Dutch, and has long been inspired by the meticulous painting of a period we know as the Dutch Golden Age. This was a time when Holland was arguably the most prosperous nation in the world. The money of the new mercantile class charted a new course for Dutch art, and led to a new non-idealised approach to portraiture and interiors.
Sophie is bringing a modern spin to the art of her compatriots. She says: "The culture of 400 years ago provides me with endless inspiration to express the world we live in today. I am especially inspired by Dutch 17th century art and English Jacobean portraiture for its exquisite detail in portrait and clothing. I am amazed by the delicate depiction of lace in these paintings and enjoy challenging myself in emulating its refinement in my work."
In this new collection for the Catto, works such as White Dove display Sophie’s astonishing ability to reproduce the texture and contours of lace. But there is far more than just formal rigour in these paintings. There is drama too. Sophie explains that she is inspired by the Gothic, films, books, paintings, fashion or the theatre, as well as art history. And this much is clear in works such as Enveloped, Giselle and The Secret, each of which hint at some intrigue behind the exquisitely reproduced fabric.
The culture of 400 years ago provides me with endless inspiration to express the world we live in today."
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