A wander through tree-lined bush tracks on the Mornington Peninsula provides a calm and a welcome caress to the soul, much like the paintings of local artist Sophie Perez. I came across Sophie’s work at one of our local art shows, Art Red Hill, last year. Her artworks reflect the essence of the Mornington Peninsula and the wider Australian landscapes, with golden and green hues, earthy browns and pops of fresh blues synonymous with the coastal region Sophie has recently made her home. In this feature we learn of Sophie’s long years of dedication to her painting practice and her insider info on other fabulous artists she has met on the Mornington Peninsula.
LC : Are you a Mornington Peninsula native? If not, how did you come to call it home?
SP : No I’m British and moved out to Australia in 2005. My (Australian) husband and I lived in Elwood for a few years, living between here and Europe. Then we lived in Hampton East for about 6 years, often visiting certain parts of the Mornington Peninsula on school holidays. For the past three years we have lived on the Peninsula. We’re absolutely thrilled we made the sea change with our three children.
LC : Which creative field are you in and what medium do you use?
SP : I’m definitely a painter. I love working in oil paints, mostly on canvas. Colour, mark making and scale are continuously evolving within my practise. I just love paint!
LC : Where do you find inspiration for your work?
SP : Just look around at what we are surrounded by! I’ve always been more interested in how one fits within a landscape than any other subject. Where I live very much feeds my work through the land, sea or city scape I am drawn to paint. I strive to see my surroundings through new eyes, new perspectives. Evoking memories, playing with light, shadows and colour through paint.
LC : How did your journey as a creative begin?
SP : I always loved drawing and colour. I studied A level art at high school and loved paint. I went onto complete a BTEC Diploma in foundation studies in Brighton, England. This is a year to try everything, which was the only path to a degree in the Arts. I always loved painting the best but considered Illustration too. After this I completed a BA Hons in painting at Chelsea College of Art, London. I loved painting so much and the nature of this degree was very contemporary where we weren’t taught any techniques or lessons on how to paint, but had the most amazing artist lecturers and tutors. We studied art history and enjoyed so many galleries Europe has to offer. It is a very intuitive and organic way of learning that has mapped out how I approach my work to this day. I was fortunate to then go onto complete a MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art, London.
I had a ten-year hiatus whilst raising my family but the last 4/5 years I have been able to commit to my practise again. I found the people here on the Peninsula so warm and generous towards my work and have really opened up new opportunities and given me the confidence to pursue this career.
LC : What are the biggest challenges you face as a creative person?
SP : Like any career choice, some times juggling family life and my practice can be hard. But having children really makes me use every window of opportunity I have. I actually think I like working under pressure!
LC : What role do you think the Arts play in our community?
SP : Huge. It’s absolutely essential we have this community and opportunity for people to be able express themselves. We all need some form of creativity in our lives. I find working for a non-for-profit gallery really rewarding. The Southern Buoy Studios is a non-for-profit gallery, sister company to Southern Buoy here in Mornington. One of my roles within Southern Buoy Studios is planning the calendar of events, education programs and providing a platform for emerging artists within our community and beyond. This April holidays I am running one of three education programs on offer for children (ages 12+) and adults who would like to explore some fun with oil paints and enjoy painting, sharing a little about my practice. “For the love of Paint” can be booked online www.southernbuoystudios.com where all information can be found.
LC : Do you have any advice for kids wanting to pursue a creative career?
SP : Get involved with as much you as you can. Be it from colouring comps, school events, visiting galleries, art programs, keeping a sketch book and just really doing what you love!
LC : Who are your favourite Mornington Peninsula creatives?
SP : There really are so many creative people I meet over on the Peninsula. When I first moved over here I met the wonderful Micah and Bern at Southern Buoy. I was invited to be part of their opening show at Southern Buoy Studios and feel they have opened so many opportunities for me. They have several artists working in the studios one of my favourites has to be the painter Baden Croft. I’m now the Gallery coordinator and Board member at Southern Buoy Studios. Several artists I show with at Cook Street Collective are also some of my favourites. Neil Williams, Lauren Guymer, Warren Cooke, Sally Joubert to name a few…I’m finding about new people everyday.
LC : Tell us your favourite place to eat or grab a coffee on the Mornington Peninsula.
SP : Being a family of five we often make a bee line for places that enjoy having children. Mercetta in Main Street, Mornington is a great spot for coffee and food. Commonfolk, in the industrial precinct in Mornington. Cafe del Sol Caravan is also a fab find on the way back from a run! I love several of the coffee shops in Mount Martha. The Chutney Bar is also absolutely delicious! Come to think of it there are too many to have favourites.
LC : A Sunday on the peninsula is best spent…
SP : I love a long run on a Sunday with my running group and more recently trail running. We often go out riding bicycles as a family and generally spending some time together and enjoying this glorious weather! Redhill trails are super fun for us all and having a nibble at Johny Ripe (Epicurean) afterwards!
LC : Exciting things to come in 2019?
SP : 2019 is looking to be a very busy and exciting year for me ! I’ve lots of new opportunties to work towards.
I’ve been so very grateful to all my collectors and supporters here. I try and enter lots of school art shows and local events to put back into the community. May 2-5th I’m doing my first art fair, The Other Art Fair. Which is held at Kensington, Melbourne. This will run a long side my first solo show in Sydney. This is being curated by the amazing Amber Creswell-Bell to be shown online and in the Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney. I’m so excited to be involved in this one.
Later in the year, I’m in a three person show at Purplenoon In Hawkesbury and a few more in the pipeline for Melbourne.
LC : Where can we find you and your work?
SP : Very grateful that my work is beginning to creep into lots more places here in Australia. A large collection of my works is on show at the Cook Street Collective in Flinders. Being a collective, I’m in there at least once a month and always post on my Instagram so that people can come down and say hello! I have some small floral studios amongst the beautiful native flora at Angus and Rose at the Briars and some works at the Southern Buoy Studios Gallery. I also have some work in NSW at the Moree Gallery in Moree and some large pieces on show at the Purplenoon Gallery in Hawksbury, NSW. Plus my website which has a gallery of all works.
Read about our other Mornington Peninsula feature creatives.