Design & Decoration S04 ep12 : Sophia Vari, Botero Artist, [Colombia]
Interview with Sophia Vari
Born in 1940 in Vari near Athens. Lives and works in Paris and Pietrasanta in Italy Figurative at her beginnings as sculptress in 1975, Sophia Vari gradually finds an intense plentitude in freeing herself from the subject in order to measure herself against Time and Space. She discovers with passion the structure of the planes, the monumental. Her forms becom tangled, gather themselves, soar skywards, kink, unfold in extension, merge in ease. As Greek, she refuses what is approximate and her sense of perfection leads her to a rigour in her studies and search (her numerous journeys incite her to). Though abstract, her sculptures keep from her original land a certain classicism.
When I was about 15 years old and the only thing that I was sure about is that I have to be an artist. That I cannot to be
something else, I have to express myself. I choose to paint because it was the thing that I was doing that was the least worst. All
the rest I was trying, to dance, to write, to sing that was a catastrophe.
I was born in Athens the year they begin the war in 1940. My parents went away and we came back when I was 10 years old. So I
saw my country like a foreigner because I didn’t even speak Greek, I was speaking French. So I have always that way to see
Greece with two different eyes. Like a Greek and like a foreigner.
I went to Paris, I was 18 ½ and already married. At 20 I had my daughter so that everything was normal. What was not normal
was that my obsession was to go to the Beaux Arts to work all the time in painting. That was not normal.
I had only the opportunity to be able to work, but that’s it. I was not this kind of person being in the cafés, meeting people and
seeing the artists. No , I was very by myself. I had the opportunity to see so much about art and to judge what I thought it was
important for me, for my work. 15 to 20 years after I begin sculpture.
For me, I need to touch and feel the reality of something. So sculpture is more real. It is there, you touch it, you go around it.
But painting, drawing is illusion. You have to create the shadow, you have to create the background. In sculpture, no it’s there. I
still do some big inaudible [10:27] on canvas. But for me sculpture has been the most important.
Inaudible [10:37 – 10:40]
The model must be life sized. And from that mound we realize a copy in wax. We pour inside the liquid wax and we wait until
the wax is cold.
We re-touch the wax, to remove all the small defects that we can have on the surface. When that has been done, we cover
everything by a refractory material like ceramic, all around the wax and inside. Then we cool, we put in a cover everything with
refractory material like ceramic fully around all around the wax and inside [11:25]. Then we put in an oven, with a very high
temperature and we burn those [bamboo] and we melt the wax. So where now is the wax in the bamboo remains hollow. And
in that hollow we put the bronze.
It’s the sculpture who tells you what to do. It’s not you who say to the sculpture what to become. So I was always doing very
small little maquettes of 20 centimeters. To be free to change it, to turn it, to do it the way I want it, what was my conception of
that sculpture I was doing. And I have those maquettes, even in the hotel I was doing those little maquettes. Even in the plane,
at that time you could. You know I have my box with my clay, I was doing small maquettes. And one day I came to my studio and
I saw all those maquettes drying there. And I thought, well why don’t I pick one and I don’t try it from this maquette to do
jewelry. It’s like this I begin the jewelry. It always come out of a maquette of a sculpture. That sculpture also could be a
monumental sculpture, a medium sculpture or jewelry. It’s why I call them portable jewelry.
We do the first coat, wait for it to dry, then do another coat and build up till we have at least 10mm thickness of ceramic.
In audible 13:26 – 13:34 thickness of the ceramic.
When I begin to work even in painting or sculpture I was figurative. Slowly slowly because of my conviction right at that moment
the figurative art was making me a little bit too difficult to compose. Because figurative you can’t put thee heads because you
need a volume there or six legs because you need another volume there. With abstraction you can compose with much
freedom. So it’s why I became abstract, but always inside me the knowledge of figurative.
And they are organic, because I think as an artist you are also very sensual. You have to have the feeling that you want to touch
it. But also geometry cleans the things up. It was a great art critic in Italy who is called Sgarbi who explained my work. He said
that I humanize geometry. And also to put some harmony with the background.
When I had my exhibition in La Castellana in Madrid and had a beautiful Castellana. I had to put my sculptures there and I had
an office there inaudible [15:34] I wish I would have eighty sculptures, I have only fifteen. Then I was fighting with the space, but
with such beauty that I felt so full, you know so full. Of course when I put up this other exhibition, the same one I did in St
Germain de Pres , in Zurich, in Heiting, in China and Peking always what I saw after is the defects. I have to go back to my studio
and try to correct all this. I’m so wrong, I haven’t expressed what I want to express . Because every time its exhibition it’s very
hard because you see only what is wrong.
If you don’t doubt. If you don’t put your work in question all the time, if you are sure of yourself, then you don’t do anything
good. You have to all the time doubt, doubt. An artist needs that.
They are countries who have charisma. You know, I don’t know how you say that. So many foreigners come to say to me, we go
to Athens, what an ugly city, it horrible. They are right, and they say, but you know something it is so charming, we feel so good
there. So contradiction is all the time. Maybe because of all that contradiction and then this delight is that beautiful sky. I am
also very attached because of the food. A child remembers things also of your…When I come back in Greece and I tried
"dolmathakia" [vine leaves] I had tears in my eyes.
Maybe I am more Greek than a Greek. I accept the chaotic, the beauty, the culture, that way to happiness and sadness in two
minutes. Those extremes and all that, it was very precious for me. And I felt that I was very much like this. That exaggeration, I
have it in me but also I have the other part because I also had a Hungarian mother. I put all that emotion, all that sort of thing,
that exaggeration every day, tragedy, drawing [18:23] in a box. Cleaning up and put it in place, and try to make it positive. It’s
why I’m very Greek, but Greek in my way.
They will always say, oh I don’t know what happened. What happened to us? They don’t know because you see that is the thing.
They want to like the moment; it’s always a thing to live the second, that second. So they close the eyes and look the other way.
They knew, of course they knew inside that something was not getting right. They have the Philotimo and I’m always hoping that
the Philotimo will save us at the last minute.
The Greek, we play also very much with death. So we like the tragedy. We love to live in the tragedy. We love to feel the end of
something. Because in a way we don’t believe it. Now in moment we went on the other side and we are destroying ourselves.
And we are destroying not only ourselves but several generations after us and I’m so sorry for the young people.
Fernando Botero I meet him in Paris 36 years ago. He’s a great great artist with great success but he never makes me feel that
I’m less than him. And that is generosity, to be very intelligent and a lot of love. The great thing that we can speak of what we
love the most in the world everyday all the time.
We have several moments that you are working. When you begin to work you know about 10% of what you are doing. Then
when you are working and getting on then what you are doing is speaking to you. At that moment you are there inaudible
[21:00]. You think that you are doing the thing that you were waiting all those years to do. That is the moment, yes I found it,
that’s it , I get it. Then you go on and on, and then you say “uh uh“, that composition [21:17]“uh uh”. Then you change and say,
when I was younger I could not leave it and when I see that something was not going too. I was thinking that I would leave
somebody who was dying and I would not help it.
The mirror helps a lot. So many times photographers come in my studio and they see the mirror as a woman. They say “uh uh”
she is so…I don’t know….. think of herself that she has to look at her face all the time, and I explain the mirror is to see what you
are doing inside the mirror because you have everything in opposite. So you can see the balance, you can see the paint falling or
the sculptures falling, the composition is right you see it in the mirror. It’s the most classical thing. So in the beginning you have
the mirror to criticize, then you have the time. There exists nothing that is stronger than time.
The sort of invitation that I have to show my work. For me Peking, every moment was strange because Greece they send me like
a prison. The curator of the exhibition, in everything I was saying she would say no. I put this there ...No. I put that there…No. I
said okay then I bring it back to Greece. I mean where shall I do it if you…And it was going on for 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, all the
monumental in the middle. And she was only drinking hot water. You know everybody always have a bottle of hot water, they
drink hot water. So I came the third day with my hot water. She looked at me like this. That thing that I got there she said “uh
uh”, she began to understand. And we came again and again and again, and she accepted that I will put the sculpture, say the
first one like 1 meter further that you can see it. I was so happy I said “Thank you, thank you so much”, and I took her in my
arms and I give her a big kiss. You know that after that I have my sculpture in any places I wanted.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Sophia Vari, Botero Artist, Colombia