BETWEEN MARBLE AND METAL: THE TIMELESS ART OF SOPHIA VARI
Welcome to the world of Sophia Vari (1940–2023), where geometry and emotions interact and complement each other, and where the border between sculpture and wearable art is lovingly blurred.
Take a stroll through the Elisabetta Cipriani gallery in London where, until recently, you could have enjoyed an exhibition of Sophia Vari's wearable sculptures, both monumental and intimate.
Sculptures You Can Wear?
“All Mediums are Noble” was the title of the exhibition organized by the Elisabetta Cipriani gallery, and the showcase spanned the early 2000s to 2023. Made from everything, from Carrara marble and amaranth wood to resin that feels like marble but is as light as air, forty unique wearable sculptures - including 13 created specially for the exhibition – greeted visitors’ curious eyes.
For Sophia Vari, the transition from sculpture to jewelry was an evolutionary process, a seamless flow of creativity that extended over 55 years. About thirty-five years ago, Vari envisaged her miniature models, molded in plaster, as wearable forms, blurring the line between function and form.
Her innovative approach transcended traditional thinking about jewelry, as she remarked, “When I create jewellery, I don't think about jewellery, it becomes jewellery at a later stage. The difference between a sculpture and a jewel is that the latter must embellish and reassure the woman who wears it.”
A Casual Discovery of Wood and Resin
Her use of new materials such as amaranth wood and resin was an accidental discovery, adding an extra layer of excitement to the exhibition. The amaranth wood, with its transformation from green to pink and purple in sunlight, and the marble-like feel of resin, enhances the forms with gold, elevating them into precious art.
From Paris to Wearable Art
Born in 1940 in Vári, Greece, Sophia Vari's artistic journey was as vibrant and ambitious as her creations. From her early studies at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1957, where she experimented with Baroque and Cycladic traditions, her style evolved to include influences from Cubism, Maya, and Olmec art.
Her sculpting career began in the 1970s with figurative works, gradually turning towards humanized abstraction in the 1980s, and reaching monumental sculptures in the 1990s, where she applied contrasting colors to her use of patina. Vari’s commitment to coupling geometric lines with sensual curves led her to explore various techniques and materials, eventually creating her unique “wearable sculpture” jewelry.
What's the story behind her jewelry? It's a tale spun from travel and longing.
While traveling the globe with her husband, sculptor Fernando Bottero, in the late 1980s, she missed her beloved workshop. It was a frustration that led to innovation. Carrying Plastiline with her, she began to mold small figures, roughly fifteen centimeters long. As these tiny sculptures accumulated, she noticed that they could be transformed into wearable art. From then on, this became her creative process and she no longer began her designs with a drawing.
A Legacy of Beauty and Harmony
Sophia Vari's jewelry is extraordinary. You can see the rich heritage of ancient statuary, yet it defies categorization. Her influences are many, but she rarely spoke about them. Her art is universal, transcending cultures, eras, and forms.
Collections of her works spread across the globe: from Belgium's Fondation Verannemann to the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas Sofía Ímber in Venezuela, from Colombia's Museum of Antioquia to the Museum Beelden aan Zee in The Netherlands.
Sophia Vari's waves of shape and the profound volume of emotions she conveys are uniquely intertwined with materials that resonate closely with nature. Her ability to humanize geometry, to infuse it with emotion and soul, ensures that her work will continue to resonate. Her embrace of novel materials and refusal to be pigeonholed reveal an artist who always strived to go beyond herself, to be radical, and to express her vision with clarity and purpose.