By Tamar Dutton
I was looking forward to viewing the first public solo exhibition of Sofia Stevi, especially because it was advertised under the ‘DON’T MISS’ section of the Baltic’s 2018 programme. But as I left the North East’s main contemporary art gallery, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disappointment.
Without the context printed on the wall when you first enter (informing the reader that Stevi is inspired by philosophy, the poet Christina Rossetti, and the every-day), the average gallery viewer may struggle to interpret exactly what she is trying to portray, let alone the influences behind it. As one viewer standing next to me said ‘What is that supposed to be?’ Perhaps we are too expectant to find obvious visual representations in art, we feel uncomfortable if we cannot instantly recognise what is being portrayed.
In the words of the famous art critic Clement Greenburg, it could be classed as purely ‘art for art’s sake’. Meaning themes and purpose are irrelevant, art should merely be appreciated for its own value. But other than the boldness of her artistic style, using Japanese ink in sweeping lines on a cotton surface (so there is no room for error), the overall experience is a bit of a letdown.
On occasion, you can distinguish an inanimate object, such as a leaf or a lamp, and next to it the harsh outline of a nude figure will become apparent. Along with an interactive table, which invites the viewer to don gloves and peruse through her fabric textbooks, this exhibit can be applauded for its well thought out presentation. That being said, I was underwhelmed by the entire exhibit and was only truly pleased by her use of bold colours in contrast to fleshy tones which gave the room a very colourful atmosphere. But unfortunately, that is where my excitement ended.
Photograph: Tamar Dutton