Meet the artists: Sophia Lee Georgas

Meet the artists: Sophia Lee Georgas

Sophia Lee Georgas in her studio. Photo by Luana Rigolli
Sophia Lee Georgas in her studio. Photo by Luana Rigolli

An interview with Sophia Lee Georgas, National Arts School in Sydney Fellow, in which she speaks about the work she has produced during her residency at the BSR from September – November 2023, ahead of the Winter Open Studios.

Your project in Rome aims to investigate the ways in which a ‘mystical sensation’ found in sacred spaces can be embodied in architectural imagery, religious symbols, and motifs. How is this informing your paintings in Rome?

Throughout my art practice, I have been investigating how aesthetic tools and techniques have assisted artists in creating idyllic artworks and ideological structures in pursuit of material representations of utopia. Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by the sense of enchantment and blissful aura I experienced in architectural structures dedicated to the purpose of a higher being or a divine essence. I experienced this desirable energy inside sacred and significant Greek Orthodox buildings in Australia. I found the fragments within the interior and exterior facade resembled unspoken yearnings and spatial order of awe-inspiring power. In each space, I became aware of an aura of a higher being, finding myself absorbed in the search for a mystical realm of my own understanding. It has fuelled my captivation and ambition to pursue this phenomenon in art.

Artist's studio, November 2023. Courtesy of the artist

My artworks are based on photographs of sacred and spiritual spaces I have never visited and utopian ideologies that I have mainly read about but have not been able to experience in the flesh since childhood. Since coming to the British School at Rome, I have been able to physically visit these sites of sacred, spiritual, or monumental significance to Romans and Christians. I now have a unique and individual experience of each site that allows me to consult my photographs to crop the imagery and highlight structures to draw out significant elements in the sacred and spiritual architecture. I utilise these aesthetic tools to construct artworks that represent an ideological form which resembles the divine aura I sensed in each space. Each picture I capture, postcard I collect, sketch or painting I produce has a connection to my felt sensation of joy or fear in the material representations of a paradise on earth in the Eternal City of Rome.

I am working from memory and any association I have with the manipulated colour, light, space, decorations, and shapes in the interior and exterior façade, creating a vision of heaven on earth – a utopia. My process has become more refined as I produce my own documentation in the form of photography, recordings, notes, and sketches to capture my felt experiences in each sacred site. I am utilising this transpersonal experience to create an ethereal atmosphere within my painting that allows spatial and temporal qualities to emerge. Through collage and fragmentation, I reimagine the original site by removing the sanctified structure from its dutiful context in an attempt to embody the potential for an alternative, nostalgic and futuristic utopia, free from political and religious implications.

Artist's studio, November 2023. Courtesy of the artist
Artist's studio, November 2023. Courtesy of the artist

For the Winter Open Studios you will create two installation works in the niches of the BSR façade.  Can you tell us more about them?

Throughout my art practice, when a painting is completed, I hang the canvas onto a selected wall and start to question where I can expand the artwork beyond the rectangular shape into site-specific wall works to create an immersive and mystical experience for the viewer. I refer to these as my Expanded Paintings, which consist of paint and taped lines expanding out of the canvas to mimic the structural lines of interiors such as church altars or surrounding iconography and the exterior founding lines of temples, shrines, and monuments. I believe in engaging with the entire space that artworks are hung in, whether a historical site or a reimagined space, to create a more enveloping environment within an exhibition.

For the open studios, I wish to engage my studies with the wonderful architectural façade of the British at Rome, a monumental space in the heart of Rome with a rich history of creatives and academics spanning the decades. I plan to take my artworks outside of the studio space to likewise engage with the Italian landscape and environment I have drawn so much from in the last two months. I am still planning whether it will involve a continuation of my drawings, paintings or even taped forms relating to the recurring symbols I keep encountering in sacred spaces. Still, I can confirm it will be incredible, and hopefully, everyone can witness the artworks/installations against another beautiful sunset!

Artist's studio, November 2023. Courtesy of the artist

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