Sophie Kuijken was born in Bruges (Belgium) in 1965. She lives and works in Willebringen, near Leuven (Belgium).
The artist graduated in 1988 from the Academy of Ghent (K.A.S.K) in Belgium.
Since 2011, she has had important solo exhibitions such as Picture this at the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Deurle (Belgium, 2011), but also three times at the Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Brussels (Belgium, 2014, 2016 and 2018), at the Cultural Center of Maasmechelen (Belgium, 2015), as well as a solo show at Art Brussels on the gallery's stand (Belgium, 2015).
Sophie Kuijken has also participated in significant group exhibitions with Dries van Noten - Inspirations at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (France, 2014), Vestige at the Fondation Francès in Senlis (France, 2014), at the Maison Belge in Cologne (Germany, 2014), Le portrait bourgeois at the Musée communal des beaux-arts d'Ixelles in Brussels (Belgium, 2016).
Sophie Kuijken's work can be found in numerous international private and institutional collections. The first monograph devoted to the artist's work was published in March 2017.
Sophie Kuijken is represented by Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels, since 2014.
At first glance, Sophie Kuijken paints portraits. But these representations are anything but trivial. Indeed, a mysterious strangeness emanates from her paintings. The artist constructs her works by collecting images gleaned from the Internet. By generating searches by keywords (a term, a number or a place), she uses photographs of people who inspire her. She then mixes and confronts different parcels of figures and symbols from her iconographic explorations in order to create new characters. The artist will say of her work: "I really like to paint people. I like to read in them simply by looking at them and by completely penetrating their existence. However, this is very intimate and personal, so I don't do this with strangers, friends or acquaintances. Instead I try to make these experiences.
By multiplying identities, she creates singular personalities transcribed on her media. Through this visual recycling, Sophie Kuijken imposes intense presences, whose portraits are shaped and reconstructed.
The artist engages in a long work of technical painting, inherited from the tradition of Flemish art. Sophie Kuijken superimposes layers of acrylic, oil and then glaze. These additions of materials contribute to reinforce intentional physical distortions. Painted on MDF panels (panels made of wood fibers and synthetic resins assembled under pressure), the realization of certain works can take up to several months. This long lamination process is not just a question of craftsmanship. It is a process that takes on a very special meaning. According to her, "this method can be compared to the experience of repeating the same word hundreds of times until it completely loses its meaning and becomes abstract, like a pure sound, but nevertheless profound, touching and substantial".
The artist's works create a veritable gallery of individuals. The framing varies in order to get as close as possible to a face, or to let a body float within a dark and indeterminate space. The ambiguity of these images is accompanied by a great concern for precision, revealed by the fold of a piece of clothing, the choice of color or the mastery of the play of light and shadow. The darkness of the backgrounds, the frontality of the point of view and the formats used suggest the intimately photographic character of Sophie Kuijken's work.
These personalities, devoid of any identifiable genre, are reinvented and seem to stare at us, to watch us, as much as they flee from us. Their gazes disturb us and fascinate us with their depth. These characters, presented alone or in duo, appear to us as present as they are absent. By compiling on the same surface identities separated by space and time, Sophie Kuijken mixes, confuses and confronts feelings and expressions within the same figure. Between reality and fiction, the artist constructs a real visual experience that disturbs and upsets us with its cloud of unspoken words and innuendoes. These imagined beings thus question our relationship with others.