Sophie Gralton

Through Myself And Back Again

December 1 - December 15 2018

In cultures dominated by logic, intellect and linear thinking, life can become a problem to be solved rather than a mystery to be enjoyed.  Sydney-based Sophie Gralton's signature imagery animates a shift in consciousness back to a more intuitive realm - that of the vulnerable innocence, curiosity, spontaneity and unbounded potentiality which characterises childhood.

Although the works are based on the poses of actual children, these are not conventional portraits as the cropping of eyes from the figures and the occasional posterior stance connotes.  Largely self-referential but with universal relevance, the images embody the recollections, desires and feelings of a time when the everyday world was interlaced with fantasy and imaginative possibilities.  ‘There are secrets in these paintings' but Gralton is unwilling to divulge them.  She prefers for the viewer to engage with her iconography from a personal perspective and perchance encounter one's own ‘inner-child'.

In some instances the subject appears to hover in ambiguous space, in others the child is positioned against a richly patterned, multi-media backdrop.  Figure and ground vacillate: the fluidity of time evoked in the stencilled and appliqued numerals afloat over vintage storybook pages.  Light absorbing and reflecting, the tactility of the surface further destabilises habitual viewing responses.

Pets are often fundamental to a child's domestic environment and so virtually every work depicts an animal companion.  As in the 17th century Dutch paintings of children that initially inspired her oeuvre, Gralton's animals are invested with symbolic intent.  A cat, being capricious and innately self-sufficient, signifies liberty while the dog has long been associated with loyalty, protectiveness and vigilance.  Throughout history winged creatures have represented mankind's yearning to break free of gravity and restriction.  The animals portrayed in Gralton's paintings seemingly collude in the children's strategies towards individuation.

The Conspirators canvas shows a non-too compliant seven year-old model attired in a dress her grandmother had made. For Gralton the costume had resonances of the 70's- style ‘Sunday Best' her own mother had sewn employing the then ubiquitous Butterick Patterns.  Hands are on hips and mouth set in hostile compliance.  Collaged manila tags texture the dress's flounce and waistline emphasising the garment's antiquated constraint.  Behind the girl, torn pages from a 1940's Golden Book proffer more desirable places to be - exploring the wild outdoors with ‘animal friends' perhaps?  Graffiti-like, the sprayed green whorls demonstrate the present unlikelihood of that escape.  The blue budgie on her shoulder is free of its particular cage and serves to iterate that this child would dearly like ‘to fly the coup' as well!

A fusion of concealment and revelation; nuance and aesthetic statement, the exhibition inspires a loosening of our everyday personae.  Image empathy guides us back through portals congested by objectivity and cultural conventions into a world once again radiant with the ‘eternal moment'.


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