The ‘Primordial Fire’ is one of our online ISSUE segments, head to ‘THE ORIGINS ISSUE’ for more.
Sophia Savanger is an artist originally from the South of France, who has lived and worked in Athens since 2020. She creates three-dimensional masks of genderless creatures made from upcycled materials, using eco-friendly techniques and taking pictures of them being worn.
When asked about the meaning of creating the masks, she said “Making masks has been a way to reconnect with nature and the divine, by crystallising morphological symbols into faces. I have obsessively continued doing masks these past years, as I’ve been questioning my gender identity for more than ten years. Creating these masks was a way to accept this reality, an attempt to exist within the limitations language has imposed on my body. This indetermination may seem shallow to some, but it has shaped my mind so profoundly that I have made an art form out of it. Today I still have no answers regarding this issue, but I rather not torture myself anymore by trying to find the truth. This quest of self-realisation eventually became a broader theme: how to integrate into society as the creatures we are and how to sculpt culture with all these fusioning origins and destinations.”
The Mask Collection
Her newest mask collection explores the theme of origins by tying the idea of time and the ethereal body. The inspiration behind it is self growth seen as motivated by an immortal fire. Fire has always played a major role in the course of human history, which is why Van Pasha wanted to honour it in her work. The creatures possess prominent veins, blood and thorns, but do not have any specific cultural characteristics. What unites them is this element of fire that “has an ever transforming quality that is essential in masks. You cannot catch it and it dances infinitely” as the artist herself has said.
In today’s world, where new developments are presented to us every day, imagining a time when fire was not yet discovered seems almost impossible. However, it was one of the first steps of mankind. A simple element like fire has accompanied humans for centuries and despite all the breakthroughs, it continues to be essential. That is proof that the foundation of growth and progress never ceases to stay relevant, no matter how far from the start people have come. We should acknowledge and appreciate our origins, because they accompany us throughout our lives and should not be taken for granted. Van Pasha’s work makes us take a step back and think not only about humanity’s origins but also our own.
Modern Day Roots
Each person’s origins may differ greatly, but as people who are part of a society, we are all united by a common evolutionary path that goes back to the same roots: in nature. With technology moving forward continuously, it is hard to stop and reflect on the journey thus far and nature’s role in it. Reflection on the past is essential in order to grow. Artists like Van Pasha encourage this introspective approach towards art with symbolisms, environmentally friendly techniques and natural materials that prove nature’s role in people’s lives infinitely. From myths about the origin of life to actual materials, mother nature is exactly that: a mother. It is the vessel for human progress, yet people do not treat it accordingly.
Living in a capitalist world, citizens’ priorities have shifted towards income and industrial development. Today’s need for constant progress has put introspection and reflection on the back burner. Proof of this is the environmental crisis the world is going through for the past years. Nature is not seen as a home, but as a means for economical and technological advancement. Progress should not come from destroying nature, but from evolving alongside it, with respect and appreciation for everything it has and continues to offer. The creative industry can address evolutionary matters through art and draw attention to the importance of origins, as Van Pasha and so many other artists do, in order to stimulate the public and start a conversation.
In a time where we focus so much on the future, it is easy to forget about the past and everything that has contributed to where we are now. Maybe we should take a moment and think about the start of it all and appreciate it as much as our evolution.
Written by Despina Zacharopoulou