They Said I was Special: Sophie Vallance & Douglas Cantor

10 - 24 November 2018

Union Gallery is pleased to present They Said I was Special, with paintings by Glasgow-based artists Sophie Vallance and Douglas Cantor, curated by William Gustafsson.

The work of Sophie Vallance and Douglas Cantor is deeply rooted in the personal language of their everyday lives.

As a married couple Vallance and Cantor share important life decisions together and upon the UK government forcing Cantor to leave the country due to immigration policies established by Theresa May in 2012 when she was Home Secretary, they unwillingly had to reconsider everything. Vallance left her degree and they settled in Berlin. This major change altered their perception of society overnight, questioning everything from the culture in which they called ‘home’.

Yet, it was this move which liberated them.

Drastic changes in context catalyse a sense of freedom and create a less restrictive existence. This freed them of external pressures allowing the production of their work to be carried out with unapologetic honesty.

Rooted in Cantor’s works is his layered identity, a Latino, an immigrant sense of being British, he embraces this duality and mediates this through his practice. His work addresses the mundane as well as hefty issues of his existence. Cantor is constantly collecting thoughts, phrases and imagery. His work is reminiscent of a journal, with a painting being a page from this visual diary navigating the anxiety of being. He uses his paintings as a vice to release his anger, pain, grief and love, reminding him of each life moment. Although, being solely personal work, Cantor is not protective of “meaning” or “purpose” allowing the work to be open to interpretation.

Similarly to Cantor, Vallance’s work is deeply autobiographical, painting from her own experiences, conversations, and jokes. She creates her own visual narrative as displayed in the exhibition with three self-portraits, navigating her own state of being and charging her work with her emotions. Vallance has long since struggled with anxiety and only recently been able to see it properly, she uses the act of painting to transform her own vulnerability into power, allowing her to step back and re-enter the anxiety that she holds. Vallance uses humour as a vice to address these serious issues of her personal journey, allowing the work to become approachable and relatable to the viewer.

Not only do Vallance and Cantor share a life together but also a home studio. They point in the same direction in life, which creates a mutual visual language in their work. On occasions there are elements of their work which are re-appropriated, yet there is no possession of ideas or jealousy of ownership between them.

An example of this is the exploration of the use of branding in their work. Branding implies identity, a subject in which both artists heavily consider. A brand is a tool for a product, but also implies a certification in quality. For Cantor it is unavoidable to separate his work from his story and believes an artist in a way is something of a “brand”. Yet, he has no desire to be a brand, himself, but believes an artists story, via their practice, holds up a seal of quality. Vallance labels a brand as a product but also an identity. Noting the key difference in terms of identity and branding being to do with intention and honesty, believing a sense of integrity, keeping as one’s priority the idea of always moving forward in the practice, no matter where it takes you, having command over yourself, and being nobodies product.

Like branding Vallance and Cantor share an admiration for animals in their work; for Vallance, cats, and for Cantor, horses. They live vicariously through these spirit animals. Cantor’s interest in horses lies in the subversion between high and low culture, as horses are difficult to identify for one purpose or status, much like Cantor’s struggle with identity. The horses represent what Cantor wants them to represent and often feels like they are right symbol to embody himself. For Vallance the cat encompasses everything from power to anxiety becoming a fundamental allegory in her practice, a vessel for the artists’ deeper intentions and emotions, a manifestation of her vulnerability and a manifesto for self-empowerment. This is seen in Just Do it, as Vallance mirrors herself with a cat sharing a tender moment between woman and feline.

Sophie Vallance (b. 1993, Stirling, Scotland) Recent exhibitions include Predatory Behaviour, T293, Rome, IT (2018), Her Presence is Fuel, Mo Gallery, Berlin, DE (2018), H E R U S, Berlin, DE (2018), Slightly Seared on The Reality Grill, Unit 5 Gallery, London, UK (2018), Young Contemporary Talent Exhibition, Ingram Collection, London, UK (2018), Mine, Others and Yours, We are BUD, Athens, GR (2017).

Vallance lives and works in Glasgow.

Douglas Cantor (b. 1989, Columbia) graduated from Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London with a BA (Hons) in Illustration. Recent exhibitions include Young Contemporary Talent From The Ingram Collection, The Lightbox Museum, UK (2018), H E R U S, Berlin, DE (2018), MŌ Gallery, Berlin, DE (2017), Young Contemporary Talent Prize, Cello Factory, London, UK (2016). Cantor’s work is included in The Ingram Collection of Modern British Art.

Cantor lives and works in Glasgow.