Sophie Ruigrok’s solo exhibition ‘today I feel relevant and alive’ brings together a new body of pastel drawings completed over the last two years. Grounded in the artist’s interest in Jungian psychoanalysis and concepts of the collective unconscious and archetypes, Ruigrok creates work that investigates the extremities of human emotion.
Ruigrok’s subjects are drawn from a wide range of sources; movie stills, found photographs, and appropriations from art history are fused together with her own autobiographical encounters, memories and photography. In the work Positive Mental Attitude (2021), for instance, Ruigrok scrambles a laughing portrait of her close friends with a reference to the singing angels of Hubert and Jan Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece.
The resulting images are fragments from the past, present and imagined, coalesced into non-linear narratives. The inherent ethereal quality of the pastels she uses and her approach of constructing networks of images rather than individual pieces allow for dreamlike sequences to play out – scales, emotions, and the sense of time and place undulate in heightened states of both euphoria and melancholia.
In the self-portrait You’re my limerent object (2022) Ruigrok references both a figure from Botticelli’s 15th-century painting Primavera and HanaHaki, a fictional Japanese disease where the suffering victim of unrequited love begins to vomit petals and flowers.
Certain images recur throughout this body of work, but the repetition of motifs become increasingly refracted within the dream logic they occupy. Hands appear and reappear, symbolising human connection, preoccupied with a game of Cat’s Cradle or gutting a fish; open mouths reference Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, trans-forming states of religious adoration into contemporary modes of pleasure, anguish or consumption.
Appropriating the scale, palette and gleam of religious icon paintings, Ruigrok’s practise is an exploration into the parallels between everyday encounters and the spiritual. In ‘today I feel relevant and alive’, the viewer is invited to confront a world in which ecstasy appears not as an altered state, but as the simple intensification of our lived experience.
A new series of poems by Rachael Allen accompanies the exhibition.
Sophie Ruigrok b. 1992, London. Lives and works in London. In 2019 she completed The Drawing Year Postgraduate Programme at The Royal Drawing School, London, UK. Recent exhibitions include ‘A Grain of Sand’, The Sunday Painter, London, UK, 2021; ‘Bloomberg New Contemporaries’, South London Gallery, London, UK, 2020; ‘Onward & Upward: Art in Times of Uncertainty’, Droog, Amsterdam, Netherlands; 2020, ‘The Drawing Year 2018-19’, The Royal Drawing School, London, UK; 2019.
Rachael Allen is the author of ‘Kingdomland’ (Faber) and co-author of numerous artists’ books, including ‘Nights of Poor Sleep’ (Prototype), ‘Almost One, Say Again!’ (Slimvolume) and ‘Green at an Angle’ (Kestle Barton).
ENGLISH LANDSCAPE TRADITION
Pursued by ciphers, congregational with herself, mad me
Stands in the green mouthlike fumes of evening.
Rubber noosed around the neck in sex-play, gruesome malodrome.
I am not taking my pill.
There will be so many ways you arrive back in your body.
I was not allowed to share my darkest dreams or versions of them.
So this is the prose of departure.
Mechanical gristle of transport
Punctures the rural with disco mist.
A large face — creamy–bulbous
Clattering through my recurring dream
Of clinging to a harbour wall.
I arrive at a beach I knew from childhood and thought
I’d been here before, further years than I’d been alive.
Confirmation of a previous lifetime
Even stupider than this.
HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO
A system of bottomed musculature, similar –
we will shadow each other our whole lives –
different to a young face, an uncanny versioning.
I admit to having these same dreams –
I turn and face you, chin in hands
and drive and drive
my thumbs into your eyes.
Juddering clouds and tantalum sky with money in it.
That is how some people see things.
Lustrous. Corrosion blue.
HOW TO EAT A HERRING
Seed-colour sky – rigid altarpiece sky.
Gold in the polyptych mottles: even more bloodletting.
These are the acts of devotion.
The fibrous circuitry of veins
are a council in the body –
a sequence of sets –
devoted to the processes
that gauge away without permission.
there is a big light turned on
in there –
it gapes through the mouth
when I open it, in servitude?
I don’t feel funny, I feel wrecked
like a ship on a bladder-wracked coral reef.