Woman & Stone
A collection of impressive sculpture works singles Sophie Jungreis as a prominent artist. Her convincing capability to cope with solid matter and break through it into a dynamic outcome, like a woman in labor, displays an outstanding artistic experience. Strength and tenderness characterize the artist's touch in stone. Whether it is a pink Mitzpe stone or a dark Arad stone, firm and grey Basalt or white Jerusalem stone, they all turn under her hand to stepping stones building a language abundant with expression and meaning.
In her artist's statement Sophie speaks of a search for "inner wholeness"; exploring layers of feelings through layers of stone, the latter coming to life under the touch of the sculpting tools, connecting her in matter and spirit to a true and deep source. Sophie is not deterred by the concept of redemption, since for her the journey into stone is one to the "pertrified" layers in the soul, craving for a crevice through which to flood the universe with their treasured light. Her act of sculpting is an act of love, holding within it courtship, assertion, affection and thrill, brought into wholeness through the act of union. Expressing ceaseless yearning, it is as if she is reaching for the Gnostic concept by which matter is darkness (negredo) concealing a spark of light, i.e. a shard of the divine soul. Redemption, she testifies, is "an infinite process of inner search. The soul is seeking to unearth its lost parts in order to regain its authenticity".
Clinging caressingly to the hard stone, the artist strives to dismantle the heavy loads within her psyche. Those are reflected by the raw weight of the stone, waiting for a redeeming hand to free the primal energies locked within it.. Self-identity forlorn and retrieved. Fall and the longing for a "lost land", these are the most distinguishable Gnostic symbols. The soul turns towards matter, eager to experience corporeal pleasures, forgetting its true identity, its "original abode", its center, its eternal existence. "Hymn of the Pearl" is the dramatic description of the myth about obliviousness and retrieval (see text in "Acts of Thomas"). Sophie is seeking after her pearl in the thicket of the stone, thence she would illuminate matter. Thus the redeemer is redeemed by means of his deed. Salvator Salvatus. Like the hero who descends from heaven wrapped in a "contaminated garment", namely the coat of flesh, so as not to dissociate himself from the local inhabitants, the artist dresses her art-making service robe, and through practice, through the light and shape brought forth from the stone, it is made clear to her that this elaborated entity is like a reliable double of her true own self.
Just as redemption is linked with knowledge (Gnostics…), so in art-making, knowledge, skill and talent enable one to break through the stillness of stone. Just as in the process of redemption, three stages are entailed: awakening, the revealing of knowledge, self resignation.
In her work "Male & Female" sculpted in dark Arad stone, Sophie managed to materialize the mythical redemption through union: man and woman as one being, an ideal of a primeaval androgynous being; two formations entwined together in everlasting peace.
The primal erotic motive in her works reminds of prehistoric matriarch images, or such as "yoni" and "linga" in Indian tradition which, similarly to the cabalistic approach, relates spiritual meaning to sexes. Rabbi Kattina said, "whenever Israel came up to the festival, the curtain would be removed for them and the cherubim were shown to them, whose bodies were intertwisted with one another, and they would be thus addressed: Look! You are beloved before God as the love between man and woman" (Talmud Bavli, Mas.Yoma 54,7l). The Divine presence, a feminine principle, blends with the masculine one. The attachment to the divine is illustrated as a shining, pleasing and delightful occurrence. Sophie "kneads" the stone as if it were soft dough. Sophie's stone is gathered up inside itself, like a tender introvert creature, opens like a flower, stiffens like two laps that cling to each other in reciprocal penetration, yearning for tranquility. Raw anatomy remains abstract. The bodily formations are massive and flowing at the same time. The artist uses the bulkiness to create a game of lights and shades, alluding to love play. Watching the three-dimensional firm presence, we witness a (tantalizing) process of union and engagement, and so the stone is redeemed, whilst the soul returns comforted from its exile to its original quarry.
Text: Varda Genosar
Translated from Hebrew by Eyal Levin