Sophia Vigne Welsh

Sophia Vigne Welsh is a contemporary painter from Wicklow. She studied Fine Art Media at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin where she was awarded a first class honours in 2016. Her final year project was an ephemeral exploration of youth culture which used medium format photography, found object installation and socially engaged workshops with young people to destigmatize alternative forms of education. 

After graduating Sophia moved to Los Angeles for a year where she worked as a gallery assistant at 00 LA and continued to develop her practice. Her focus shifted from photography to drawing and abstract painting and by the end of 2017 it was clear that abstraction was where her true interests lay. Whilst in LA Sophia participated in several group shows and immersed herself in the DIY artist run spaces around the city. On returning to Ireland she was one of the founding members of the Gorey Artist’s Collective studio spaces in Co. Wexford.

She has exhibited internationally with group shows in Ireland, Spain, Portugal and the United States. Sophia’s work can be seen in The Dean Hotel Galway, Hangtough Contemporary, Dublin and Outset Gallery, Galway. She has been commissioned by Diageo, Hensteeth Studios, Hatch Blackrock and many private clients to create both indoor and outdoor murals

Sophia is currently enrolled in the Turps Bananas Correspondence Course and in September she will begin her MA in Painting at The Royal College of Art, London.

Picture of artist Sophie Vigne Welsh

What did you want to be when you were growing up? And when did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?
I really didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do for a career when I was growing up. I remember wanting to be an archaeologist or detective when I was very young but as I grew older I was more and more lost. I come from a creative family so for me it was normal to be an artist of some sorts, that came very naturally in a sense. I didn’t start painting until the final few months of my BFA but when I did I quickly realised that this was a creative outlet that I wanted to spend my life pursuing. 

Are there any specific artists or movements that have influenced your work? When I was 11 my mum took me to see the Matisse chapel in Vence, France and an exhibition of Chagall paintings. This was the first time I really felt connected to art and this trip had a profound effect on me. Fauvism was one of the first painting movements I became interested in. After graduating I moved to LA for a year and discovered the paintings of Laura Owens and Rebecca Morris and my eyes were opened to a wealth of painters that continue to inspire me. Recently I’ve been particularly interested in the work of Robert Natkin and his emotionally driven abstract expressionism. I relate to the themes of loss and childhood he explores and how he used painting as a means to build a space to belong in. 

How and where do you find inspiration on a regular basis?
I live by the Richard Serra quote “work comes from work”. Inspiration is everywhere if you can open yourself up to it but the work won’t make itself. 

What does your process look like from ideation to completion?
An intuitive approach to colour is the driving force behind my work and a means to evoke sensations and memories of inner and outer worlds. In conception I’m concerned only with the formal elements of the painting. As the structure takes shape I become emotionally invested, the forms and colours become markers of memory and association. Everyday I go walking, photographing my surroundings, listening to music, taking notes and drawing to build a language which acts as the foundation for my paintings. This archive of consumption feeds into my practice and gets filtered through each painting.

What emotions or thoughts do you wish to spark in viewers?
I strive to make paintings which elicit an emotional response from the viewer but I don’t like to spend too much time considering which emotions or thoughts these may be. Ultimately that’s beyond my control and I enjoy being surprised by the viewer’s response.  

How has your practice or style changed over time?
I go through phases in my practice; sometimes I draw a lot, make a lot of collages and use notebooks. Other times I’m only making paintings and scribbling notes on loose paper. It’s all cyclical which is what I love about painting. My use of colour and application has refined over the years but I still see certain patterns of mark making, forms and tropes which repeat throughout my work. 

What is a common misconception that people have about artists or the art world?
I think like every industry if you’re not directly involved in it there’s so much you don’t see. The hours of admin, stretching canvases and rearranging tiny studio spaces to fit your work in! There’s a huge amount of alone time too which is necessary but something I’ve been grappling with over the last few months. Isolation is required but it’s important not to become completely disconnected from the outside world. It’s difficult to find this balance as an artist. Also most artist’s hate going to openings!