Sophie La Maitre’s practice is centred in a deep fascination for the unremarkable and unnoticed. Her abstract paintings reflect an intense engagement with the surroundings of daily life and express her appreciation of quietude.
La Maitre finds inspiration in the overlooked elements of our world such as the unnoticed growth of a house plant, the disturbed sheets of a warm bed, or the weeds sprouting up in unexpected places. Even supermarket bouquets left to wilt are stored away in her archive of source materials, often in the form of small photographs and drawings. This material is then reflected through the colours, forms and compositions found in her intimate, beautifully toned and textured abstract paintings.
A graduate of Edith Cowan University with Honours, Sophie has exhibited regularly and been awarded for her work. She has also undertaken a number of residencies and had her work acquired by private collections across Australia.
- Works on Paper award, Joondalup Community Art Awards in 2021
- Rhythms of Nature Exhibition with Aster and Asha Gallery presented at ILEANA Contemporary Art in 2021
- 2021 Artist in Residence program at North Metropolitan TAFE
What medium do you work with, and why have you chosen them?
I work primarily in oils, and have recently taken up the acrylic medium. I’m more familiar with the texture and openness of oil paint and really enjoy how luscious they feel and having the ability to play with transparency and opacity so naturally. However, I love the way that acrylic behaves when heavily diluted. In my acrylic paintings I use a lot of washes to stain the raw canvas. By repeating and building these gentle washes over many sessions I am able to create misty pockets of colour that reach out into the room. When it works, I find they feel ethereal and calm.
How does your artwork get from initial concept to exhibition stage?
My artworks always start off with either a small polaroid photo, or an image taken on my phone. Oftentimes I will bring my camera with me on long walks, taking small instant-camera pictures of quiet things I find like flowers peeking out from under fences or the undergrowth. These pictures then make it into my sketchbooks where, through drawing, I simplify them further to focus on the shapes and movements in them. I build a lot of different compositions until, in that drawing stage, an image feels almost complete. That image will then be a starting point for the painting! It’s a lot of process and build up into the painting, but for the acrylic works especially, it is an unforgiving way of painting on canvas. You can’t erase or cover any mistakes so I like to have a thorough plan and everything prepared. Naming a painting is very meaningful to me. When I’ve spent some time with a painting and can feel the artwork reaching completion, I see if it marries well to a title I’ve saved in a long list. The phrases and snippets of text that become titles I have plucked up from anywhere and everywhere, poetry, text books, new articles, movies, songs, and so on. The titles I choose speak to me, with a similar whisper and quietude to the polaroids, the sketches, and the paintings. I try to make it all harmonise together.
Can you tell us a little more about your creative working environment/studio?
Well, my studio goes wherever I go, and will often impact the works I create. When I don’t have space to work large, I set up at the kitchen table and work small. One thing that remains constant, regardless of studio space, is my sketchbooks. I will always have a small sketchbook on me to draw passing compositions that catch my eye throughout the day or to make note of particular colours.