Interview: Sophie Hoath
Luca Curci talks with Sophie Hoath during CANVAS INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2022, at Palazzo Bembo – Venice Grand Canal.
Sophie Hoath is an emerging artist living and working in London. Her work examines societal narratives through a critical lens, requiring active participation from her viewer as she confronts them with a challenge to the way they’ve been conditioned to perceive the world around them. In the piece she exhibited at Canvas International Art Fair – one part of a triptych – she mocks her desperate need to perceive and be perceived through a hyper-edited, ‘Instagrammable’ lens. And yes, her ‘best’ selfie did get 314 likes on Instagram once (@sophiehoath – check if you want).
Luca Curci – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Sophie Hoath – I’ve always done a lot of creative stuff, but I only started pursuing art in a more professional context a couple of years ago. Before that, I was doing my BA and Masters in English Literature at Cambridge Uni. I wrote a lot there – mainly poetry, articles, and essay type stuff – but I didn’t have much time to sit and do something purely for creativity’s sake. I’d kind of fallen out of touch with it if I’m honest, which I felt was a shame. Lockdown really helped with that. I found that I had time on my hands which I was completely unaccustomed to, so I started scanning pictures of scenes I saw on my daily walks and tweaking them on makeup simulator apps to make my everyday life look a little bit more interesting. Unlike everything else I was doing, it was creativity without pressure. I didn’t have a deadline or a brief to follow. I didn’t have to make my pieces follow a certain structure or ‘mean’ anything significant. I started building words on top of them to experiment with meaning because I couldn’t keep away from that impulse for too long. But it started as a purely creative endeavour and it’s definitely stayed that way. I’m keen not to stray too far from those origins because I think that’s what has had the most positive influence on my work.
LC – Which subject are you working on?
SH – Ironically, even though I said my artwork arose out of a desire to make stuff without worrying about meaning, I’m currently working on combining my more activism-driven poetry with my artistic style. I want to keep the creative aspect which is purely driven by taking something ordinary and making it a more beautified and interesting version of itself. But I also want to combine that with a more reflective attitude which has my viewer’s experience of perceiving it in mind. Challenging the onlooker through confusing or provocative statements that make them reflect on the ways they’ve been conditioned to see the world around them interests me. I’ve written about it in my essays and poetry – I like drawing attention to damaging societal narratives (be they directed towards women, immigrants, or other marginalised communities) as a means of turning them on their heads and working towards undermining them. I want to encourage some of that critical self-reflection in my artwork. I’m still figuring out what it’ll look like, but it’s something I’m excited about. I think there’s space for my art to evolve to speak to issues I care about without losing its creative spark.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
SH – The most challenging part about creating my artwork is actually finding the time to do it, as boring as that sounds. I’m not a full-time artist because it’s a tough gig to establish a living through art. My full-time job is in the journalism/media sector specialising in events related to environmental, social, and governance issues. It’s a full-on job, made more hectic by the fact that I’m also involved in the odd bit of writing for an international NGO which specialises in social entrepreneurship. I’m interested in sustainability, social responsibility, and broadly making the world a better place, so I’m lucky to be working in roles that are geared towards that. But it’s tricky trying to balance them with taking my art as seriously as I want to take it. I’d happily take a few more hours in the day – either that or extra days in the week to do it.
LC – How is your creative process?
SH – My creative process is quite unconventional – when I first started exhibiting that was something I was embarrassed about. I started out using some pretty simple tools that I had at my disposal to enhance images I’d scanned on my notes app on my iPhone. It was easy and accessible and I could respond to an idea I had the moment I had it, which was why I was able to create so much so quickly. I used to worry that this weird method I’d developed of using apps that weren’t meant to be used in this way didn’t constitute ‘proper’ art, so I wanted to move away from it. But I came to realise that this was actually its strength. I’m really interested in making art more accessible to people because I feel that the way society thinks of ‘the artist’ is elitist and outdated. Sure, artists are people who create these colossal pieces that take months – or even years – using only the finest materials in their private studio spaces. They’re also people with full-time jobs who love creating things and work out innovative ways to do so with the time and resources they have. You can’t say art is for everyone without appreciating all methods of making art. This method works for me.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
SH – The theme of my artworks is always changing and evolving – I’m just going along with it and seeing where it takes me. In the beginning, it was about beautifying my mundane lockdown reality by injecting new life into the walks I went on every day. Then it became about critiquing my need to distort everything through this hyper-appealing ‘Instagrammable’ lens I’ve grown up envisioning my world. The series after that was about connecting with people through art in a way that undermines all the lofty pretensions associated with it. I’ll keep you updated on where it’s heading next when I get there. I’ve got an idea of what it’ll look like but it’s definitely still a work in progress.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the exhibition’s theme?
SH – The artwork I exhibited at Canvas International Art Fair was entitled: ‘My Selfie Got 314 Likes on Instagram Once’. It’s part of a set of three images that are a bit of a tongue-in-cheek exposé of my own personal obsession with Instagram culture. I wanted to use the self-portrait medium to examine the way that feeds into my artistic impulse to make everything look prettier and more exciting than it is in reality. Social media culture is something I’m developing more works on because I’m fascinated by it. My generation was the first to fully grow up and it’s shaped us in innumerable ways. You can be self-aware of the ways it’s damaging to distort your reality to make it more appealing to people on the internet whilst still participating in it. I’m not looking to criticize my need to be perceived in a heavily curated way by drawing attention to it – I think everyone who creates self-portraits of any kind has that urge. Social media has made it more accessible, and with that, more pervasive and toxic. If you consider the canvas as an artistic skin, I wanted my work to reflect the pains we go to putting colours and products on that skin to make it more appealing to a nameless perceiver. You say you want to express yourself or document your experience, but really, in the act of putting your curated image out there to the world, you want to be perceived. At the very least, I’ve realised that I do. It’s not a healthy thing to want, but it’s the way an increasing number of us have been conditioned to live.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
SH – I feel like my exhibition piece is pretty self-explanatory, though I suppose some of the inspirations behind it are less obvious than others. For one, the text on the image is picking up on the style of a magazine cover. Social media culture and tabloid culture overlap in so many ways – both of them represent women as aesthetic objects to be perceived with little other value besides, and I wanted to give a nod to that issue. I spent so long working on different versions of my own face that it definitely became just that – an aesthetic object, more of a thing than a person, to be looked at not really known. Art, social media, and magazines, all sell hyperreal images to us and pretend it’s real life. This is dehumanising to the people they represent in all sorts of ways. I know my art participates in that, but I want it to do so reflectively.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
SH – ITSLIQUID Group definitely represents an opportunity for artists to show their work to audiences they’ve not previously had the chance to engage with. Personally, I’d exhibited in various London shows, but this was the first-ever international exhibition I’d done. It was a pleasure to see my work displayed alongside some really talented, established artists – and travelling to a beautiful venue is always a plus! It’s great to meet people and be inspired by their work and their journeys. I’d call myself an emerging artist for sure, so any opportunity to put myself and my work out there whilst meeting new people is valuable to me. I can’t wait to see where my artwork will take me next.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
SH – If it wasn’t clear by my last answer, yes, I definitely enjoyed collaborating with ITSLIQUID Group on this exhibition. I’m hopeful that by the time it comes to a close, it will have helped me get my work in front of lots more people who are interested in it. That’s something which is tough to do when you’re starting out – especially on an international scale. Aside from that, the friends I made through this experience are people I feel lucky to have met. Overall, I’m grateful.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
SH – I think ITSLIQUID platform is a useful tool for all artists – emerging and established – to broaden their reach and learn from one another. For art lovers, it’s a great resource for discovering new creators from all over the world. It’s got a lot of really exciting potential benefits to it.