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Animal Humanity: Sophie Ryder Sculpture


Animal Humanity: Sophie Ryder Sculpture
Nov 9 – Dec 9, 2007

“I sculpt characters and beings – the dogs, the hares, the minotaurs – are all characters beyond animal form... I am not interested in making a replica...”

Sophie Ryder, 1995

The Contessa Gallery is proud to present the art of the renowned British sculptor Sophie Ryder in this unique and important exhibition. With the conclusion of her first major U.S. museum exhibition at the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, many of the works which were on view will be available for acquisition at this Midwest gallery debut.

Ryder is a highly versatile artist who makes wire and bronze sculptures, installations, wire drawings, collages and prints. Her lively, often humorous insights into human and animal relations have brought her international acclaim. Larger than life, her minotaurs, lady-hares and dogmen are the stuff of daydreams and yet they retain a great sense of humanity expressed through movement, gesture and physical contact.

Her career began in 1984 and in two decades she has produced a body of work that is so extensive and varied it surpasses what most artists would be capable of producing in a lifetime. She has developed a world-wide following and the demand for her work amongst collectors is extreme. One of the reasons for this is the accessibility of her art – people respond to and understand her works on a purely emotional and subconscious rather than intellectual level.

Ryder has always considered herself an artist first and foremost, rather than a sculptor, printmaker or specialist in any single medium. At any given moment she may be coaxing half a dozen or more works into being, using a variety of media, themes and sizes. However, her favorite way of creating is on a large scale, producing 10 ft-tall mythical figures, which despite their enormous size always carry in their faces and postures the emotions of unconditional love and trust. Working “big” is a very significant feature of her work, and she enjoys rising to the constructional and creative challenges which flow from this aspiration.  Common to all her works is a fascination with different forms of physical contact between seemingly incompatible creatures, who bond perfectly well in spite of their contrasting shapes and sizes. The motif of the small animal being held protectively in the hands of a much larger mythical creature reflects the sense of wonder the artist hopes to induce in others when they are confronted by a monumental piece of sculpture.

“I like things to be fun and full of life...” says Ryder. That might be one of the reasons why time and again, individuals with no artistic sympathies or knowledge will come across Ryder’s work in a public space and turn, literally overnight, into dedicated fans who adopt her sculpted figures and creatures for their own. The illusion of reality is so strong that many admirers perceive the sculpted forms as living beings, willed into existence by their innate capacity for imaginative play and imaginative thought.