Author Silvia Boadella on 'Sophie Taeuber-Arp: A Life through Art'
19 March 2021
Sophie Taeuber-Arp's great-niece was inspired to write the biography by a phrase she heard in her dreams.
Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Composition dans un cercle (éléments d'objets coïncidents) (1936). Gouache on paper. 27.8 × 26 cm. © Private ownership, permanent loan Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau. Photo: Peter Schälchli
A new biography of pioneering Swiss artist Sophie Taueber-Arp will be released in the U.K. and Europe next month and in the U.S. in June.
Sophie Taeuber-Arp: A Life through Art (2021) was penned by Taeuber-Arp's great-niece, Silvia Boadella. Boadella, a Swiss-born writer and psychotherapist, told Ocula Magazine that the inspiration for the book came to her while she was sleeping.
'In my dream, I heard the phrase: "Sophie transformed a nightmare into a dream." I wanted to explore whether or not this was true, and how Sophie was able to do this. So, I wrote the book out of an interest in learning from [her].'
Defying the hierarchies that separated fine and applied arts, Sophie Taeuber-Arp (b. 1889, Davos) worked between painting, sculpting, dancing, textiles, puppet-making, design, and architecture. She was a prominent figure in several early-20th century European avantgarde movements, playing a part in 'the Zurich Dada Movement, Abstraction-Création, Cercle et Carré, and Allianz, while the interplay of colour, form, and line across her oeuvre aligned with the early foundations of Constructivism.
Growing up, Boadella had seen Sophie as a 'soulmate' of sorts, and wrote the book to satisfy an interest in learning from her relative.
'Sophie has remained true to herself, even in the most difficult circumstances of life,' Boadella said. 'She has persistently pursued her inner purpose as an artist. Sophie helped me to make unconventional decisions in my life.'
These unconventional decisions catalysed Boadella's career as an academic, writer, and psychotherapist—and led her and her husband David Boadella to develop Biosynthesis, a form of somatic psychotherapy. In this particular regard, Taeuber-Arp's legacy provided a model for holistic creativity.
'Within Biosynthesis,' she said, 'I developed my own combination of art, therapy and dance. [The] elements of art and dance in my own work are part of Sophie's legacy.'
Parting from conventional biographical style, in the book Boadella imagines the artist's inner thoughts while responding to events in her outer life. Drawing from family stories and unpublished documents, Boadella writes as if looking through the artist's eyes. Following Taeuber-Arp through massive historic and artistic upheavals, the narrative weaves topics fundamental to every human life, such as love, birth, and death.
Asked what new perspective on Taeuber-Arp's life and work readers will gain, Boadella told Ocula that her 'emotional and creative approach to Sophie's art' is intended 'to offer direct emotional access to Sophie's works and allow the reader to engage with them creatively, experiencing first-hand how the artist lives on through her art.'
Boadella believes personal stories will illuminate Taeuber-Arp's output. 'I think it deepens the view of her art by an existential dimension,' the author said. 'I have shown how Sophie created her works in certain life situations under great challenges.'
However, Boadella does not believe that artistic meaning should be reduced to mere biography. 'We can be touched by a work in an exhibition even if we know nothing of her life. We can, for example, experience the dance of colours and shapes in one of her works. This can evoke in ourselves a sense of dance and freedom. So, we can [experience] resonance with a work of art, just as it is there by its own right.'
This year, a major touring retrospective will highlight Taeuber-Arp's work and achievements as a leading female figure of early-20th century modernism. Titled Living Abstraction, the exhibition will go on view at: the Kunstmuseum, Basel from 20 March to 20 June; Tate Modern, London from 15 July to 17 October; and MoMA, New York from 21 November 2021 to 12 March 2022. —[O]