#insight | Art World





Artist of the week





This week's #MACFOCUS is on Sophie Ko, artist on show at Renata Fabbri with the exhibition Before Night Falls until November 18th.


Sophie Ko (Tbilisi, 1981) places the issue of time at the heart of her artistic practice by establishing a strong symbolic relationship between the materials used – mostly ashes of burnt images and pure pigments – and the images created. The change and instability of materials in relation to the flow of time are some of the constants of her artistic research.


Emerging from a formal and conceptual negotiation between painting and sculpture, Sophie Ko’s Temporal Geographies come across as drawings of time settled in a place, spatial images of the dialectical relationship that we entertain with time. They embody the idea of an artwork eternally suspended between the act of creation and that of destruction, as they are subjected to a continuous and unpredictable process of modification, taking place through the slow and relentless collapse of the material of which these works are made.


An essential component of the Temporal Geographies is in fact the force of gravity which acts “on” and “with” the material of the painting, leading the pigment to fall, making it crumble and thus marking the passing of time on the surface of the painting. Just as an hourglass slowly empties while accumulating sand at the bottom, likewise her Temporal Geographies aim to stage the relationship between time and images: a relationship made of weight, pressure, gravity and of the destructive influence of time on images, but at the same time, also one of creation, depth, return and rebirth with regard to the grinding passage of time.


Five years after her last solo show, Sporgersi nella notte (2018), Renata Fabbri presents the artist’s third solo show at the gallery: Before Night Falls. The project presents a series of new Temporal Geographies, sculptures and photographic works which deal with time in its relation to material – caducity and forces of resistance – themes that have always been central to the artist’s research. 


Sophie Ko, Prima che la notte cada. Installation view at Renata Fabbri, Milan, 2023. Ph: Mattia Mognetti.


In this new exhibition, fragments of a celestial body punctuate the gallery spaces, inviting the observer to imagine the reconstruction of its entirety. Perhaps they are the remains of a stellar explosion, or maybe we are faced with the birth of a star: the end of its life cycle and at the same time its genesis. Belonging to the series Temporal Geographies, these irregular splinters seem to reach out towards each other to be joined together once again – or maybe this is the first time.


Sophie Ko, Geografia temporale. Il cuore di una stella, 2023, pigmento puro, frammenti di ali di farfalla, ceneri di immagini bruciate. Courtesy the artist and Renata Fabbri. Ph: Mattia Mognetti.

On the floor we come across three bronze sculptures, obtained by pairing leaves with pieces of bark, transforming the former into sails and the latter into hulls. These simple boats are the result of an ordinary and timeless gesture: like a child’s game, but in which we acknowledge the basic sense of human art-making: the ability to discover the world by transforming it, giving spiritual form to material.




Sophie Ko, Una barca, 2023, bronze, 26x18x8 cm, 28x33x8 cm, 26x18x8 cm (from left to right). Courtesy the artist and Renata Fabbri. Ph: Mattia Mognetti.


The exhibition path ends with the representation of two hands – those of an adult and a child – lying on the surface of a scanner. The image evokes the sense of childish wonder before the discovery of a beam of light, which as it slides briefly over things, mimetically captures and reproduces reality, only to then be plunged once more into darkness, like a falling star that rapidly disappears in front of our eyes.

Before Night Falls is an invitation to look with childlike wonder at that sparkle before everything around us becomes dull once again; it’s an attempt to re-orient the gaze toward time, thinking of it not only as running out of the exhaustion of time, but as the growth of life resisting the destructive forces of time.


Sophie Ko, Prima che la notte cada. Installation view at Renata Fabbri, Milan, 2023. Ph: Mattia Mognetti. 


“An exploded or a rising star, with a luminous heart in the shape of a pentagon and five black and blue tips scattered in space. A geometric but imperfect shape, and one which betrays the hand of Sophie Ko. Reprise.


Sophie knows the risks of those who wish to make time their substance, she who desires to map it with the colors of her own geographies. To arrange the coloured pigment without binders, place it under glass, frame it together with butterfly wings and immediately suspend the gesture, and stare into the void. And now? Let the work open up to time by generating its ripples, its splinters like those of the celestial body found in Prima che la notte cada. Let the work embrace the astronomical, as if it were a rising star or one exploding in the galaxy, but also to the geological as if it were the body of a landslide. Let time be shown and not just suffered by imagery. Let time to open up to desire beyond hourglasses and ceaseless motion.


Indeed, “desire must never be disavowed,” writes Rilke in a passage from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, which Sophie read to me when the exhibition was yet to be set up. Depending on how one treats the prefix, de-sire has a double etymology and may refer to staring intently at the stars or looking away from them. Yet the opposition is only apparent. The north star guides our path through the night; the shooting star prompts our wishes. Likewise, Sophie manufactures stars but confesses to being attracted to the ground, and often walks with her head down, on the lookout for fallen leaves and perhaps even celestial traces.” - excerpt from Riccardo Venturi’s critical text, Body of a Landslide.



#MACFOCUS is the column of the Milano Art Community offering insights on the most interesting contemporary art galleries, foundations, and nonprofit spaces in Milan and on the work of their artists.




For more info Renata Fabbri



We use cookies to optimize our website and services.Read more
This website uses Google Analytics (GA4) as a third-party analytical cookie in order to analyse users’ browsing and to produce statistics on visits; the IP address is not “in clear” text, this cookie is thus deemed analogue to technical cookies and does not require the users’ consent.