"I don't think about imagery as a two-dimensional thing, I am creating a feeling", says Sonya Pletes, Melbourne artist, designer and creative director, who spoke with Heidi Dokulil about a chance moment that led to her new collection for Dutch design brand Moooi.
Sonya Pletes studied fashion design at RMIT before discovering photography, a process she describes as going from one series of creative experiences to another. But it was in publishing, not an art gallery, that she her the first big break, and with it the space to develop ephemeral, layered photographic imagery while reading manuscripts and experimenting with ideas in response to the prose.
"I found my way into creating book covers which gave me the freedom to work for myself. That way I could develop the knowledge from fashion and fabric, using my hands and creating imagery that employed my past and my current future", reveals Sonya from her Melbourne studio.
It is the painters Rupert Bunny, Cézanne, Grace Cossington Smith, Odilon Redon, and the Pre-Raphaelites, who inspire the work, with the exception of a few photographers including French fashion photographer Sarah Moon who Sonya describes as beautiful and expressive and revealing "real soul", You can see the painterly reflection in her work: in its depth of light and dark and shadowy silhouettes.
Fascinated by layered images and superimposing in a very organic process, there is a certain early Renaissance quality that perhaps explains the attention from a growing following in Europe – for the last three years running, Sonya has received the 'People's Choice Award' at the prestigious Prix de la Photography in Paris.
Setting up studio with her husband, architect Henry Francis, in Fitzroy, Melbourne, in 2003, Sonya works across disciplines and countries as a designer, creative director and artist buoyed by a freedom that supports "the magic". Projects criss-cross between art, fashion, design and interiors: her latest for Dutch design brand Moooi's new carpet collection launched at the Milan Furniture Fair this year. Like most of Sonya's collaborations, the meeting with Moooi was the result of a chance moment.
"Last year Casper Vissers [Moooi's cofounder] gave a special talk at Space in Melbourne and Henry took me along. I was just totally affected by Casper's honesty and his integrity and his willingness to share. A lot of people in the creative industry are very protective about their thoughts and ideas so it was a beautiful thing and I really connected to him".
Six months later after plucking up the courage to contact Moooi with an idea about developing a fabric collection, Sonya sent through some images and a note. An email came straight back from Casper suggesting her work might be perfect for Moooi's new rug range. And within the week, Casper, and Moooi's art director Marcel Wanders, had selected an image. "It was a real Cinderella moment, I had no idea that they would write back, let alone choose something and I would be off to Milan".
Joining a collection of carpets designed by Studio Job, Ross Lovegrove, Bertjan Pot and Front, Sonya's piece, 'Seduction', is inspired by "notions of great romantic love, alluring beauty and dramatic romanticism". True to its name, Seduction is a grand photograph of luscious ivory roses stained by deep blood red and bathed in light and shadow. It is at once evocative and decorative and for the first time transforms her painterly photographic approach using a new printing process.
"It's a very new technology to print digitally on fibre and I was lucky enough to meet the man who developed the process when I was in Milan. The amount of ink used and the way it is absorbed is fascinating and groundbreaking. Now that I am developing ideas for next year's collection, I am hoping to travel to Germany to see the machinery in action".
Like all of the work created by Sonya, her new rug for Moooi emerged in a very free and organic way. "I create with my heart, led by feeling and thoughts and dreams. Without that freedom I couldn't create beautiful things."
The new Moooi Carpets Collection launched in Milan in April 2015, and is now available at Space in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia.