Sophia Schorr-Kon’s life has been defined by metamorphosis.
“I’ve done so many things,” she says. “And now I’m just about to launch into a new chapter of my career.” It’s a career that has already taken on many guises. The Ramsgate-based artist started out as a hair stylist before becoming a photographer. “I really feel like transformation has been the main aspect that I’ve worked with – whether it’s to do with my scissors and shaping someone’s identity, or working through the camera,” she explains. “It’s understanding the impact that I can have with whatever medium I’m choosing to work with, to help people to shift and to transmute through some kind of rebirth.”
Over the years the artist’s camera has taken her into realms ranging from wedding portraiture to documenting hardcore punk subcultures in Europe. More recently, she’s turned the lens on herself, using it as a tool for personal transformation. “It can be really challenging to see ourselves,” she says. “For the last seven years, I’ve been doing erotic self-witness: which is self-portraiture, looking at myself with my own camera.”
The word ‘erotic’ comes up a lot in Schorr-Kon’s practise, which, by her own account, now “spans self-portraiture, performance, collage and photography.” Although it’s a word we often use as a synonym for sexual, the artist sees it as something far more expansive. “I see Eros as our aliveness, and our presence here. Our energy of creation as well. Being alive is erotic, if we choose to see it in that way, because there are so many ways we can celebrate being through the senses, and through connection.” It’s something she’s been interested in for a long time. “I used to go to the V&A library. I’d sit and get out all of these ‘naughty’ books of artwork and just dig into that history of the erotic in the space of art.”
During the pandemic, this ethos of sensuality and erotic energy came to the forefront and found a fitting home in the world of Surrealism. “Our shared reality just shattered, and there was the opportunity to try and reform some kind of sense of normality or to lean into the Surreal.” As lockdown laid waste to plans for a new business and Schorr-Kon went to spend some time with her mother in Devon, she began to experiment with the lo-fi materials and tools she had immediately to hand: magazines, photographs, her camera. For her, this work was a “lifeline” – a way of keeping her head above water and avoiding the “space of deep fear and anxiety” that lurked beneath. She created artworks that collaged together body parts, insects, fabrics, and objects, following in the great Surrealist tradition of creating startling juxtapositions and dredging up dreamlike expressions of consciousness from the deep. Soon, she was photographing these handmade cut-outs to create composite images, blending together collage and chiaroscuro in a dance of light and shadow.
“It was quite volcanic, the pressure I felt to share [these works],” she reflects now, thinking back over that strange, self-enclosed set of months. “The time we were in felt spacious, and it just seemed like it was a choice between either destruction or creation. I chose to create and just trust it: to trust what was inside and every day commit to working a little bit more. And then suddenly, things had momentum. It all happened. It was very organic and terrifying and exciting.”
In December, she exhibited these new works in a solo show titled ‘Erotic: Alter’. The show was made up of three separate chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of transformative erotic energy. One of these chapters has been consigned to Lymited. Each of the six Giclée prints available expresses what she calls “the different stages of how we bring our desires into form, and into matter, through the body.” They are commanding images: strange and textured, full of unexpected shapes and splashes of colour. What does she want these images to give the viewer, or bring to the space they sit in? “They’re charged with the kind of illumination that will inspire people to move towards their own sensuality, their own intuition, and question the relationship that they have with their erotic nature,” she says. “My hope is that the works carry that frequency with them.”
These works feel like a long culmination of Schorr-Kon’s interests and personal evolutions. In the nature of their making, they allude to some of her own art heroines. There’s the painter Leonor Fini, who, Schorr-Kon says, “blew [her] mind” with the powerful eroticism and use of mythology present in her work, as well as the way she “really flips the roles of masculine and feminine.” There’s the multi-talented photographer Lee Miller, who shifted between modelling, war reportage, and Surrealist art: “She was very able to move between ways of using her creativity, which gave me hope.” The photographer Florence Henri, too: “She really uses the shadow as a presence in her pictures, which influenced how I then began to work with light and shade in my images.”
In the act of putting these works together, Schorr-Kon also experienced personal revelation. “Pleasure was the root of creating these pieces. It was very much about following the feeling and moving towards what was calling.” The physicality and intuition of the work transformed her life away from the studio, too. She has recently qualified as a soulful doula and is currently doing a course on learning how to be a dominatrix. In addition to her art, she now runs a podcast called The Modern Erotic, examining pleasure in all its many forms.
“I feel like for the last couple of years, I’ve been turning my life in the direction of where I actually wanted to go,” she explains. “The artwork was the first layer of expression that I needed in order to then unearth the deeper purpose.” This is the way Schorr-Kon always works, though. Life provides inspiration for the work, and the work in turn shapes the life. That’s why she has to pause between each project, to give her time to find “new questions” to drive her art. It’s a pendulum swing she embraces. “I need to live in order to find those questions. Then I’ll set about making work, which will help me to understand them.”