'Tangent', 2019 © Sophia Pauley
Acrylic, gloss and spray paint on canvas; 200 x 140cm each
Photographed by the artist on display at Patriothall Gallery

Student Spotlight: Sophia Pauley, Edinburgh Studio Prize
November 29, 2019
The latest student to be featured in our Student Spotlight series is Sophia Pauley of the Edinburgh College of Art.

In 2018, Pauley received a £3,500 prize to help secure a studio space for the next twelve months along with a stipend to support her practice through the purchase of materials. We are delighted to have spoken with Pauley at the end of her studio residency to find out more about how this opportunity has encouraged her career to develop.

Over the course of the past year, ACS was able to partner with more institutions than ever before to award a record £33,750 in educational bursaries and prizes to students throughout the UK.

Find out more about Pauley and the inspiration she takes from water and the urban landscape in her painting practice in our interview below.


Q. How would you define your work in three words?


Vibrant, geometric, energetic.


Q. What does winning the ACS/Edinburgh College of Art Studio Prize mean for you as an artist?


I was always wondering how I was going to make work after graduating. I wanted to stay in Edinburgh as I loved the city and network around me at Edinburgh College of Art, but I knew this wasn’t feasible without funding and a space to work in. Winning the award has given me the opportunity to continue creating work immediately after graduating without waiting for a studio space to become available. I feel very grateful for the studio which WASPS (Workshop & Artists Studio Provision Scotland) have provided to continue making large works and develop my interest in painted sculptural installations.

It is important to try new things and to put myself out of the comforts of the studio, as well as to build as wide a network as possible with other artists and creatives.
Outside of art school it can be easy to fall into a more isolated way of working, so broadening my network, interacting with other practising artists, and planning joint exhibitions with complementary work, is essential for my continuing practice.
‘Spatial Encounters Series’, 2019 © Sophia Pauley
Acrylic on canvas; 60 x 40cm


Q. What medium do you mainly work with and why?


I love using acrylic paints as they dry so quickly, enabling me to repeatedly layer shapes across the canvas. More recently I have enjoyed using a wider range of materials, including glosses, varnishes and spray paints to create different textures and to insinuate movement.


Q. Where do you find most inspiration for your work?


I focus on spaces in between the physical forms of the urban landscape, using a bright contrasting palette to accentuate the flowing shapes. I am still naturally attracted to watery architectural environments such as swimming pools, canals, lakes and the sea, but have become more interested in making work in response to the exhibition space, to change the way the viewer responds and moves around the work and surrounding environment.


Q. Take us through your working process.


I recreate my experiences of particular places by recording, using drawing and photography, then remembering and re-imagining, both visually and emotionally. I usually form a set of drawings extracting the lines and shapes from initial sketches before starting to paint.


I use this as a process to extract the most interesting shapes, lines and tones into forms that I can translate into cohesive abstracts.

I want to re-create the mood, energy and my experience of a particular place in my paintings. I do not plan exactly how the painting(s) will look, but use these initial drawings, sketches and photographs to develop the shapes and sense of movement in each painting.

What I do plan is a selection of colours to create a particular tonal range per piece. I spend considerable time preparing the canvas so that the surface is the right texture to cleanly paint the shapes and lines. The hardest point is knowing when to stop as I get engrossed in the details. I am obsessed with clean lines and edges.

‘Flow’, 2019 © Sophia Pauley
Spray paint mural; 2.5 x 10m
Photographed by the artist on display at Granite House, Glasgow

Q. Can you remember the first work of art that you created? What was it and why was it so memorable?


The first piece of art I can remember painting, aged 5, was a seaside scene where I glued little shells I had collected to the bottom of the picture. I remember feeling so proud, but in retrospect hideous. It seems I have always been attracted to environments near water and must be why I can remember this piece so clearly. Every painting still evokes my experience of a particular place or experience.