Parasol (Rainbow No.2)
Seeing as this year’s graduates are about to showcase their final collections and leave behind the comfort of university, we’ve caught up with the graduates of 2014. They discuss their experiences, achievements, hopes and losses since graduating with us.
Camberwell – fine art painting – fine art – –
Making art out of every day objects is an art Sophie Giller has perfected. The Camberwell College of Art graduate test out the ‘what-ness’ of objects and has made her pieces out of left behind, broke, unwanted umbrellas. She’s reviving objects that no one else would dream of using.
Umbrella Box (Rainbow)
Volt Café: Sum up what you do in one sentence
Sophie Giller: I collect and test everyday stuff, trying to find new possibilities.
VC: What drew you to explore the ‘what-ness’ behind everyday objects?
SG: I think it comes from feeling quite anti traditional mediums. They come with prescribed materials and methods, with expectations about display and historical context. You know, that painting should ‘be this’ and ‘look like this’ and ‘sculpture should be made out of that’ etc. In opposition to that kind of thinking, I started to view everything as going-material for artwork. I didn’t want to rule anything out. That’s how my studio practice became about examining objects and testing their ‘what-ness’.
VC: Your recent work utilises umbrellas and the different forms that can be made out of their primary materials. Why did you start examining this?
SG: Umbrellas are the cheap, everyday leftovers that get strewn around the street everywhere after bad weather. They can look really striking out in the wild, resting on their spikes, or poking up out of bins. Or they can just look like dead birds. I was drawn to them because I kept finding broken umbrellas in really amazing shapes, colours, and patterns.
I think I was also annoyed by how weak and disposable they are, they’re wasteful. That’s why I stamped the first one into a box and cast it in concrete, to make something so fleeting more permanent.
The casts have painting-like surfaces and sculpture-like armatures, they quote traditional mediums but they’re just umbrellas from the street or from Poundland. The results of each casting are also so dictated by the umbrellas themselves, the forms they make in reaction to the forces I put on them; that chance element is important to me.
Umbrella Box (Tiger-Print)
VC: Do you think all objects have a concept behind them or can things just ‘be’?
SG: Well, maybe not a concept, but it’s obvious that often form dictates function. It’s hard to use a kettle upside down.
VC: You studied fine art painting, how has this helped your other mediums such as sculpture?
SG: At Camberwell people are wildly open to skirting between mediums. The degree was all about critiquing painting and asking important questions: ‘What does it mean to paint oil on canvas in 2015?’ and ‘Where are the outer limits of painting, and how can we displace them further?’ Most importantly for me, studying there disconnected the idea of painting as an action and the concept of a traditional painting hanging on a wall.
VC: Were you aware of your artistic talent and interest when you were starting secondary school?
SG: It was already my favourite thing to do by then. It made me really angry that I only had three hours of art classes in two weeks. I spent a lot of my free time just making whatever I could at home. I made prints, used pastels, painted, collected paper from exploded fireworks, that sort of thing.
Umbrella Plinth No.3
Umbrella Relief (Dunlop)
VC: Does having the support of other recently graduated artists sharing your studio help with trying to balance work, creating your artwork and balancing your social life?
SG: It’s basically the most important thing. We’re all in it together, we’re all young, and we’re all trying to do exciting things in the capital. The two girl artists I share my space with in Peckham, Chloe Louise Lawrence and Zoe Watson, are my support network outside the art school walls.
VC: Whilst you were travelling you visited Seville, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paris visiting art galleries. Do you think art belongs in art galleries, or is it better viewed in the artist’s studio?
SG: Lots of people don’t get to see the exciting things-in-the-making in private studios. Obviously there is a sterility and un-welcoming vibe to lots of galleries, but if you push through that you can have a good time. Also there are lots of galleries that try hard to make shows accessible and that’s important.
Umbrella Relief No.4
Umbrella Box (Patchwork)
VC: Does thinking about what you don’t want to do with your life drive you to succeed in the art world?
SG: Wanting to have a progressive and expanding practice gives me drive. It’s the joy of making things not things I don’t want to do.
VC: If you had to pick one designer to wear for the rest of your life, who would it be and why?
SG: Ah, I’m sorry but I don’t think I can give you one; I’m a collector of weird pieces not specific designers.
All works are made in 2014.
All works are medium: Umbrellas, Plaster, Found Objects.
Except one is a 35mm Photograph: ‘Umbrella Box (Tiger-Print)’
Words by Annie Lunnon & Danielle Westwood


Camberwell, Collector, Graduates, Sculpture, Sophie Giller, Umbrellas, Volt Graduates,