With over 25 years under her belt as an artist, exhibitions throughout Europe, clients the World over and the 2007 V&A Sculpture Prize in hand, Sophie Dickens has a real pedigree as a sculptor. But it’s her fascination with anatomy and her attention to detail which make her stand out from crowd.
As a sculptor, Sophie is interested in the human and animal form and enjoys the movement that a sculpture can generate. “I like the human form as a means of expression. I was lucky enough to do life drawing at school, and realised that to really have an understanding of the external appearance of the human figure, an artist has to have an understanding of the structure underneath, and it’s capabilities,” says the London based artist.
Great-great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens, she started drawing and painting at a young age and wanted to go to art school but instead studied history of art at The Courtauld Institute. “This turned out to be hugely formative for my later artist’s practice, creating a visual vocabulary that I frequently draw on.” She went on to take an anatomy course to better understand how the human body works, allowing her to study cadavers first hand.
Influenced by the likes of Cezanne, Egon Schiele, and sculptures and drawings of Rodin and Henri Gaudier Breska, Sophie’s inspiration comes to her quite simply through conversation with friend and patrons or when working towards a commissioned piece. She has been exhibiting with an animalier gallery for 10 years, “so there is quite a strong animal theme. Dogs, pelicans, bulls, horses, goats, and religious imagery,” she says. Her creations appear to be leaping off their pedestals, transmitting movement and emotion.
Sophie’s creative process starts with small studies made using warm modelling wax on a wire armature. “This allows for flexibility so that I can keep changing my mind and fiddling with the composition.” Aided by a meticulous study of anatomy, Sophie constructs armatures by welding metal rods together like skeletal drawings on which she begins to attach and layer specifically worked pieces of wood, cut on a band saw that she inherited from her mother’s furniture business. This creates a three dimensional drawing and the gaps are filled to create a solid whole. The results are extraordinarily dynamic pieces that appear to be frozen in time.
Sophie’s work evolves with her creativity, “with early sculptures I invented my own mythologies. I then got into more art historical themes, but am now moving back to my own mythologies again, with a series of work based on my husband being away on tour – the body language of a man and woman.”