Artist Spotlight: Sofia Fresia

In this editorial series Artsted is offering a dive into the stories of artists, taking them on a weekly discovery sprint: learn about the practice, process, philosophy and conceptual research behind the platform’s best contemporary creators.

Hi Sofia! So nice meeting you. Could you tell a few things about yourself?

- My name is Sofia Fresia and I am an Italian figurative artist, specialized in oil painting to be specific. I am 28 years old, and I currently work and live in Turin, in the northwest of Italy.

Sofia at “Residenza d’arte a Masseria Cultura” february 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

When did you start your journey as an artist?

I approached art for the first time thanks to a visit to the exhibition “The Impressionists and the snow” (2005), from which I gained interest in figurative and landscape painting. I did not have the opportunity — or rather, “the permission” — to attend artistic studies, so I continued as an autodidact until painting proved to be crucial in facing a long hospital stay. Painting helped me to find interest in life and to free myself from my ghosts in a sort of rebirth. After graduating in nursing (2014) I decided to enrol in the Albertina Art Academy in Turin. The first artworks were highly figurative and connected to the aspects that I felt most related to my rebirth, such as hiking and swimming. At the beginning I used painting to talk about myself to myself, as if to say “I am here and I have become this person”. Later I started using painting to talk about myself to the others and this was a revolution for me because I realized that communication through paintings was more incisive than through words, and allowed me to face problems that I would never have dared to talk about. From there to using art to talk about issues that were important to me but also potentially felt by many other people, the step was short. When people began to recognize themselves in some of my paintings, I realized that my work maybe could be defined as real art, and I’ve started to think of myself as an artist.

Artwork in the studio, courtesy of the artist.

What is your primary source of inspiration?

My best creative ideas come to me while doing something else, like walking or running. At first I don’t usually think of a complete composition, but of a message or situation that I would like to share or about which I would like to express my opinion. In the following days or weeks I collect visual insights useful for my speech, until I create a fairly precise sketch of what the final result will be. I don’t have a real painting studio yet, so I paint wherever I manage to place my easels: one of my first plans for the future is to get my own space. I really like painting and listening to an audiobook.

How would you define yourself as an artist?

I think of myself as a figurative oil painter who loves mixing old painting techniques and contemporary themes, and sharing my practice thanks to workshops open to the public. My works are mostly medium or large size oil paintings characterised by a visual language that originates from Surrealism. There are constant references to the water and the swimmers’ world that recall both the concept of social fluidity and my personal experience as a surf lifesaving athlete. I am interested in bringing out the imaginative, dreamlike and unconscious component of today’s people, annihilated by a hectic lifestyle: more than on the analysis of the social dynamics itself, my research focuses on the reactions of the individual, his/her feelings and his/her reasons. Some artworks are conceived as a means to take note of a difficulty and rework it, while others focus on problems that are common to the contemporary youth universe.

Paintings are supposed to suggest an interpretation that can be helpful or at least comforting: recognizing that you are not alone in facing certain difficulties is a good step to get closer to other people and to keep hope safe even in these uncertain times. I’m proud of my main painting series ‘Pools’, which I started in 2017, and now I am working on a large triptych inspired by the reading of G. Orwell’s 1984 novel that will be included in the series. The project will consist of three canvases 120x180 cm each, and I hope it will become one of my favourite works.

Artworks, “Social distancing” series. Courtesy of the artist.

After you have decided to undertake this path, how did your work transform the way you interact with the world?

My work helped me to have greater awareness of myself, of my tastes and beliefs, as well as to have a privileged mode of communication in addition to the usual ones. They also proved to be a valuable tool for analysing the surrounding reality and making some order in my thoughts. Sometimes it’s difficult to create a good communication with the public, but my personal experience has usually been very positive because people seem to like and understand my work. The biggest difficulties concern being noticed and accepted by the official art world: at the moment I have not found yet a way to make my voice heard, and I feel a bit lost in the multitude of people who would like to be recognized as an artist.

Let’s talk about 2020, it was such an unusual and intense experience for all of us. What did it mean to you, how was your creative practice different during the pandemic?

Artworks, “Social distancing” series. Courtesy of the artist.

Here in Italy we had a three months general lockdown from March to May 2020. The situation had a double effect. Looking on the bright side I had a lot of time to paint, much more than ever: all my daily life was built around the studio practice. I realized many paintings, even if I decided to keep the original medium-large size, and all of them were strictly related to the pandemic but thanks to a surreal filter: they helped me a lot to face my fears and to exorcise the situation, making sure that I didn’t let myself go to despair. I had lots of free time to study colours and painting theory, but also to try new art techniques and painting supports.

The negative side has certainly been the lack of contact and comparison with other artists, which I believe is essential to carry out a good art practice. Most of the main ideas that underlie my paintings are related to some aspects of contemporary society, so I’m sure that the changes due to the pandemic will also affect my art, although I don’t know exactly how yet.

In the studio, courtesy of the artist

Give us a bit of a glimpse into your future projects: what should we be expecting?

In April after graduating I will take part in a two months artist residency in northern Iceland, working on a project focused on cyanotype and painting.

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