Sophie Cape | Sydney Morning Herald

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Sophie Cape. Image courtesy Tamara Dean and Sydney Morning Herald

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Rick Feneley sat down with Sophie Cape to discuss her life, from a career as an international downhill skier, to her time as a sprint cyclist with the Australian Institute of Sport, and her current profession as an artist with Olsen Irwin gallery.

Describing her time as a downhill skier, Feneley says, “She spent the next six years working back-to-back winters as an instructor at Whistler and Thredbo to pay for her new life as a downhill racer. She squeezed in a bachelor of design in visual communication at the University of Technology, Sydney (valedictorian, first-class honours and awarded a Full Blue for skiing). She also worked: cleaning public toilets, stacking shelves at Woolworths and planting saplings in Alaska for 5¢ a tree.” – Rick Feneley, Brushes with Death, Sydney Morning Herald

After a series of horrific crashes and reconstructive surgeries, Capes career as a downhill skier came to and end. In 2002, Cape applied for a talent identification program at the Australian Institute of Sport, designed to counter the shortage of female track sprint cyclists for the 2008 Olympics.

“‘I didn’t know what track cycling was,’ Cape says. She had never seen a velodrome, which was perfect as the AIS wanted elite athletes with no cycling experience and therefore ‘no bad habits’. ‘They tested thousands of women and selected 20 of us,’ Cape says.” – Rick Feneley, Brushes with Death, Sydney Morning Herald

“Three years later, Cape was the last of the 20 still standing, though she suffered excruciating leg pain. With her eyes wide open, Cape agreed to experimental surgery. ‘They cut both my thighs open and removed the fascia – the muscle sheath. It meant there was nothing to stop the muscles from growing. Within weeks, my legs were like chicken drumsticks. And I got faster.’ ‘But the pain got worse.'” – Rick Feneley, Brushes with Death, Sydney Morning Herald

After yet another surgery and recovery time spent at the AIS in Canberra, Cape was left unable to take part in any form of strenuous exercise. Cape then went on to study at the National Art School in Sydney. Selection as winner of the 2010 John Olsen Prize for Figure Drawing came as Cape’s big break. From 2011, Cape was represented by Tim Olsen Gallery, now Olsen Irwin.

“She ventures alone into the outback, sleeps on a swag and ”cohabits” for weeks at a time with her works in progress. ‘If a piece is not working, I’ll close my eyes and throw something at it, or I’ll just leave it in the rain.'” – Rick Feneley, Brushes with Death, Sydney Morning Herald

Not content producing works in the relative safety of the Australian outback, Cape travels the world, pushing her own physical limitations and the limitations of her works. In 2013, Cape took past in an artist’s residency programme with the Australia China Art Foundation Fellowship Programme. She also recently returned from a trek to Mt Everest Base Camp. The day after Cape flew out of Base Camp, Everest’s worst recorded avalanche hit, killing 16 Sherpas. Cape had collected many of their signatures on a canvas that she dragged along on the trek with her. Cape’s upcoming exhibition at Olsen Irwin will be a reflection of these two events of the past year.

The article is an absolute must read and can be read in its entirety here on the Sydney Morning Herald website.

Sophie Cape
New Work
Opening Saturday 5 July 2014 2-4pm
Exhibition 2 – 20 July 2014

Olsen Irwin 
Works on Paper, Small Paintings and Sculpture
40 Queen Street
Woollahra NSW 2025

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