Sofia Silva

artist’s statement

As my painting is from sight, I do not refer to memory, and nor do I delve into the surreal. I draw on a wide range of theoretical and personal narratives to make thematic paintings that question notions of formalism.
Abstinence and subtraction are important themes within my painting practice, one which always tends to be anti-spectacular. My painting and writing practices are linked by a particular love for editing. I have great fun understanding and solving my own painterly failures, for I consider failures the redundancies of authorship.

The details of my process vary from one time to the next, but a number of fixed elements remain throughout the corpus of my works: I am fascinated by the spontaneity of house painters and annoyed by mastery and technicism, I work to ensure my hand does not get entrenched in knowing how to do certain things, and my brushstroke is often fleeting. From an ethical point of view, it is very important for me not to fully master my pictures: it’s a way to escape from spectacle and from any abused meaning or imagery. I go for truthful colours, homogenous and clean, and as for mark-making, I like marks that are faithful to drawing.

Even though I hold an MA in the History of Art, I try not to consider painting a mere continuation of art history. Slightly paradoxically, I find contemporary painting to be the only visual medium that could consciously and radically escape from visual consumerist intents by not being driven by any pre-conceived visual meaning. The less the painting is seductive in terms of storytelling, the more I find it seductive. From my own point of view, painting has a profound epistemological value; it’s closer to the philosophy of knowledge than to any device of retinal pleasure, although beauty does play a major role in my specific research.

I am deeply involved in the destruction of my own works; I habitually tear my own canvases to shreds. From each canvas, I conserve the shred of which the beauty or anonymity has the most to say, and I proceed by gluing or sewing it onto another canvas. In this manner, collage helps me to break the simulacrum. I am dead set against the illusory and hostile to theatre in painting. I believe painting is presentation and not representation.

In 2020, I began working on series of paintings, while before that I had always worked on single artworks. My series of works investigate various subjects: some draw inspiration from childhood stationery, others from the aesthetics of wellness that permeates the dietary supplements market, others still examine the concept of bliss and subtraction by reconnecting with abstinence from food in ancient female mysticism. More generally, they all relate to virginity, purity, innocence, and the friction between these ideals and society.

As far as my art writing is concerned, I am committed to the historicisation of overlooked artists from the twentieth century and to the decoding of trends in contemporary painting. I have a peculiar interest in art criticism itself, in studying how it’s evolved in the Italian context and what possibilities and new issues it has to face in conjunction with the expansion of the canon.

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«The first thing that comes to mind when looking at Sofia’s painting – the painting, not the pictures, not the ‘works’ – is what this painting says, or wants to say, or wants not to say, or – better – what this painting does not want to say. It is in fact a reticent, anti-spectacular painting, obstinately silent, a painting that knows but does not say and that conceals what is there: a painting of “(falsely-)dead language”. […] This painting, on the other hand, becomes shameless, anything but reticent, when it comes to affirming what is not there, what it does not want to be there: there is no narration and there is no story, despite there being stories; there must be no Matisse, despite there being decoration; there is no Morandi, despite the fact that there are objects and tonal chords. It is a continuous challenge to the eye and to the perceptive and intellectual comfort of the observer, who is persuaded to recognise what is not there, deluded and deceived by a painting that is at first sight compliant, but always ready to withdraw into its silent reserve»

(Giorgio Di Domenico)