Sofia Mitsola is a Greek painter who graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in London in 2018.Read More
Even though she has made landscape paintings, particularly formal gardens with pools enclosed by ancient pre-Christian architecture, Mitsola is most known for her interest in the female nude. In combining assertive sexuality, confrontational humour, curvaceous undulating forms, and flat saturated colour, Mitsola produces dynamic compositions from spontaneously developed charcoal (and occasionally pastel) drawings.
Mitsola's chromatically strident paintings of reclining spread-legged naked women are unabashedly provocative, celebrating 'female power' and advocating the benefits of self-pleasuring, refusing to allow any shame in the act of masturbation. With their raucously hot skin tones, these confrontational works can also be seen as looking outward. Her paintings fiercely return the viewer's gaze, embracing an ethos of petulant seduction, a brattish delight in bizarre bodily contortions, and a celebration of eroticism where viewers of any gender might be enticed or excited by the image—albeit abstracted.
The elegantly distorted leggy nudes are exuberantly carnal, but not gross. Even the overtly vulvic ones have an innocence, strangely with a hint of saccharine anime. They encourage voyeurism, but their lack of deep space, the flatness of the picture plane, and her accomplished control of tone, ensures that they are 'graphic' only in the sense of featuring shapes and marks on a linen support.
In her 2020 online exhibition at Pilar Corrias, Mitsola's foreshortened orange works alluded to bathing goddesses from Greek mythology or half-animal Egyptian sphinxes, who are not only alluring but also crazed and demonic. With pneumatic breasts, vampiric teeth, flaming red hair, bulging eyeballs, leering chubby faces, and lolling protruding tongues, they display ironic heart motifs on garters, and third eyes on foreheads or buttocks that give them malevolent powers.
Yet another grouping of this artist's seemingly satirical painting involves the human face in isolation. Marbles in My Mouth (2021) for example, consists of comical geometric visages that ponder the vocal signifiers of class. Other paintings explore more conventional 'pretty' female physiognomies, or monstrous medusas, understated cartoonish doll-like heads, and even bald no-necked stalk-like male faces attached to erect phalluses.
Mitsola is expert at testing out different compositional formats, be they narrow parallel arms supporting a topless torso through vertical alignment; squat rotund bums jammed onto fat ham-like triangular thighs that choke up the corners of rectangular canvases; or flowing designs of slinky skinny babes with small heads leaning toward on towels to hunch their shoulders, arch their backs and press up their plump derrieres. With these browny-pink silhouettes, her effortless flexibility in graphic organisation is akin to that of Australian artists John Brack or Brett Whiteley. An unlimited confidence in taking on extremely large canvases adds to this authority.
What is interesting is the way this complex, unpredictable, and prolific painter sometimes mixes a macho attitude to scale with a cute adolescent 'little girl' mindset in mark-making, effortlessly blending these conventionally polar opposites. Physical toughness and muscular grunting brawn are grafted onto a delicate and fey schoolgirl coquettishness.
The depicted predatory siren (or sirens—she often renders voluptuous twins hovering under water) may be staring down her prey, taunting them by pushing her sex in their face, but there is a regressive and amorphous form-dissolving element too, one that reverts to a pre-adolescent unthinking that abandons eyelash-fluttering calculation.
Mitsola's solo exhibitions include Aquamarina, Pilar Corrias, London (2021); Evil Eye, OVR Pilar Corrias, London (online exhibition) (2020); Darladiladada, Pilar Corrias, London (2020); Banistiri, Pilar Corrias, London (2019); and Jerwood Solo Presentations 2019, Jerwood Space, London (2019).
Her group exhibitions include A Curator's Choice, Jerwood Collection at the Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire (2021); Ordinary Collecters, Art Busan (2020); and dreamtigers, 125 Charing Cross, London (2019).
Mitsola has received numerous awards, including the Euan Uglow Memorial Scholarship (2016), the Schilizzi Scholarship (2017), and the NEON Scholarship (2017). She also received the William Coldstream Prize, the British Institution Student Award from the Royal Academy of Arts, and the Tiffany & Co x Outset Studiomakers Prize (all 2018).
John Hurrell | Ocula | 2021