Sophie Larrimore (b. 1980) concentrates her imagery on a fascinating alternation between figuration and abstraction. In her recent body of work, she further enlarges her personal visual language, combining an overwhelming presence of dogs, but also human silhouettes, executed in more abstract compositional depictions. Larrimore beautifully disrupts the cannons of abstraction and sets alternative standards within the borders of her canvases demonstrating a more flexible character on her visual technique. Her abstraction does not imply inexplicable qualities and vague images; on the contrary, her visual arrangements articulate a dynamic and vivid art work through a more gentle expression. The artist also challenges the established perspectives of the viewer through paradoxical forces within the painting image.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
In “Puddle” (2017) for example, the main attention is concentrated on a notably sized Poodle-Canis dog painted in pinky pastel tones situated in a domesticated place, sitting on a lady’s lap whose presence is underlined by her half-seen naked human body showing only hands, female breasts and feet. Although the initial gaze is captured by the dog’s position and size, the female silhouette does not feel disregard in the viewer’s eyes. In fact, the artist successfully achieves a visual enjoyment in this interior scene and also develops a greater narrative within this visualization. In addition, smoothly curved forms and remarkable geometries in lines and shapes provide another dimension in the painting’s structural strategy.
Fusing an array of colourful painted decorations in strong colours and brushworks, the painter uses tiny dots producing a significant degree of chromatic luminosity. Fauve-style and pointillism features indicate significant elements that enhance the narrative in her art practice. A smart interplay between human beings and dogs is a continuous motif in Larrimore’s imagery, while their roles may be reversed in depictions; animals seem to adopt human dispositions inheriting anthropomorphic qualities in gestures, whereas human’s movements are arranged based on animals’ behaviour. Remarkably, in “Green Glove” (2017), as a whole and unseparated unit, a female figure and a dog are displayed in a wrestling position highlighting gentle scenes of everyday fun in a domestic environment.
A contemporary cultural depiction of dogs sports a major concern in Larrimore’s imagery. The American artist interprets casual themes with the eye of an outsider, amplifying her personal perspective with regards to everyday scenery and lending her subjects a breathing space; an opportunity to pause along with a sense of serenity and enjoyment.
Born in Annapolis, Maryland, Larrimore lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She received her B.F.A. from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, in 2004. Her work has been exhibited across the Unites States, while she has also won two awards, the Mary M. Doyle Memorial Prize, The Cooper Union, in 2003 and the Sylvia Appleman Award, The Cooper Union, in 2002.
In her interview with Art Verge, Sophie Larrimore shares her approach on her alluring compositions and other art issues, while providing some important insights about her daily life. Check it out!
Art Verge: Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Sophie Larrimore: I’ll start with drawing usually, not a complete one but an element, usually a dog, or two, maybe a figure, which will anchor the composition. It’s really about creating shapes which play off one another. I usually have a conception of where the work will end up in my head but then the work itself changes as it develops and becomes something other than I expected. That is why painting continues to interest me, it’s discovering that space between the idea and the outcome.
AV: How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
SL: Composed, fuzzy, ambiguous.
AV: Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
SL: Impossible to answer briefly. However, I always come back to Medieval tapestry, Byzantine painting, Sienese School, Persian miniature painting, Folk Art, and artists like Carlo Crivelli and Cranach (old and young), Fra Angelico, Fragonard and Watteau, Vuillard and Bonnard, Matisse, Leger, Klossowski and Balthus, Picabia, then Tom Wesselmann and John Wesley, Lee Lozano, and and and.
AV: Creating a new painting can be a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new artwork does it affect your social life at all?
SL: I’ve become much more flexible in terms of needing a specific amount of time or isolation to get into a work, mostly this is due to having a child I think, this has made me much less precious about the act of painting, now I just have to fit it in, otherwise it won’t happen. And the same thing goes for being social, now I have to be very specific and selective about when I go out, which has made it more intentional and fulfilling.
AV: How do you know when an artwork is finished?
SL: I have the tendency to keep going back in when I could (maybe should) stop, but that overworking has become part of the process and creates a tension and awkwardness which make the work interesting for me. There are so many stages at which a painting could be considered finished but there is just something which feels right when it finally arrives.
AV: What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
SL: I work at home, in a small corner of our bedroom, it’s not ideal but I make it work. The constraint of the space means I have to be deliberate in what I decide to work on which seems to work for me.
AV: Which exhibition did you visit last?
SL: The Outsider Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion. I was introduced to the work of Raquel Albarren. I’m now slightly obsessed.
AV: What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
SL: I always liked the Matisse quote about wanting his work to be like a comfy armchair for the viewer. Obviously that is not the full goal, but it’s a good place to start. I would like the work to inspire sustained and repeated looking. The most interesting paintings for me (both my own and otherwise) are those I can come back to again and again and my experience of them is different.
AV: What does your mum think about your art?
SL: She is very enthusiastic about it. She and my father have always been very supportive of my doing what I enjoy.
AV: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
SL: I’ve always been more of a night person, but those days when I’m able to get up early and just get to work are so satisfying.
AV: Is the glass half empty or half full?
SL: Oh, I would love to say half full but I’m usually on the half empty side.
AV: Which are your plans for the near future?
SL: I’m currently working on a few larger scale pieces (about 70 x 55 inches) which I’m pretty excited about. And running more, which used to be a priority for me but I’ve fallen off. I have some of my most productive painting thoughts while running.