Sophie Derrick

As Auerbach to the Future opened, sat down with Sophie Derrick and discussed her work and the passion behind Auerbach

Tell us a bit more about your obsession with Auerbach, when did you first see his work?
When I was at Uni I only really researched Auerbach briefly because I was looking into Glenn Brown’s work and he references Auerbach paintings, so that is how I was first exposed to him. After University I was asked to take part in an exhibition at Leeds library where all the participating artists had to pick a book from the library and make a piece based on it and I chose a book on Frank Auerbach. I made a piece called ‘Auerbach to the future’ and it proved to be quite successful and got me down to the last 20 artists in the ‘best of the UK’ competition at Salon gallery (now Debut Contemporary) and people still tell me it’s their favourite! After the success of this piece I continued to take influence from Auerbach’s work by looking at his portraits and re-creating his brush strokes and impasto style in my work.

What prompted you to think about the nature of photographed painting?
The idea originally came out of a need to make some work at Uni. I knew I wanted to paint, and I had always been interested in figurative work so I thought about making a self portrait. However I really wanted it to have something else about it and something different and the idea to paint myself and photograph it just came to me. My work has changed drastically from my uni days where the work was more about capturing me ‘as a painting’ but now my work is more about photographing the paint itself and blurring the boundaries between the two mediums.

Why self portraits?
I don’t think of my work as being self portraits as I feel I am actually pushing myself out of the image by masking my body with paint. I am using my body as a canvas and making it into an object, rather than creating an image of myself. I have painted on other people before but I think people find it more interesting that the artist is actually in the work, buried in the paint. And also, I’m always available!

Where do your inspirations come from in regards to colour choice and piece titles?
My inspiration for the colour of the pieces comes from a lot of random things! I look through magazines a lot and gather images with inspiring colours, even if it’s an image of something completely disconnected with fine art, for example recently I made a piece inspired by a brightly coloured stripy bench in a magazine! Other colour influences include old photographs of my family from the 60’s, a floral bag, posters of London from the 20’s, and sometimes I just find good colours in art shops and put them together. The titles for the pieces usually come from the image reminding me of something, for example ‘Highbrow Emily’ reminds me of my sister Emily. I also like playing on words and keeping the titles quite playful and indicative of modern culture.

How do you get the paint on and off your face? Hair?
It’s actually really easy! I used to paint with acrylics onto my skin and that was really hard and painful to get off as it dries so quickly, but oil paints come off skin easily with a good face wipe! And I just have to shampoo my hair about 10 times and it comes out. Some colours are more difficult to get out than others though.


Do you see yourself in your paintings? or do you just see texture and colour?
As I said earlier I don’t see myself in the paintings at all, so yes I just see the texture and colour of the paint. Sometimes the paint distorts my face, as well as masking it, and gives it new angles and structure, so it really doesn’t look like me anyway. To me the texture and colour and the effect of the combination of painting and photography is what I see in the paintings.

How many photos do you take for one piece?
Loads, probably at least 200 as I add detail as I go along until the photograph looks good, and until I get a really good clear and focused image.

How long is the entire process? (idea to actual finishing of the painting on the work)
From getting the idea, taking the photo, editing the images, ordering the prints, mounting them, and then painting on top, and semi drying, it probably takes about 3 – 4 weeks.

Who else inspires you?
Lots of other artists inspire me, such as Gerhard Richter, Levi Van Veluw, Arnulf Rainer, Glenn Brown, and anyone doing different things with paint. I saw an amazing piece by Keith Tyson at the Royal Academy summer exhibition and it really inspired me so I am looking in to his work a lot more now.

Tell us a bit more about your love for making videos and books?
I think my work lends itself really well to films and books as its got quite a good narrative behind it. It’s also got a performance quality about it so its quite easy for me to make films. Stop motion films work really well with my work because of the sheer amount of photos I take. I just find making things like this really fun and a break away from my normal work. I think it gives it another dimension.


Any advice you can give artists who are currently studying and struggling to become full time artists?
I think coming out of uni is a really tough time and it takes a while for most people to get used to making work outside of education, but I guess you just need to keep making new work and plugging away entering competitions and exhibitions. Also getting on board with galleries like is so good for getting exposure and building up sales when you’ve just finished studying. My main advice would be not to get disheartened, I think it takes a while to get somewhere with art, so just keep going!