Marking Breath is a work that needs to be understood as the fruit of long years of Buddhist practice, meditation, and yoga. Throughout her life, Sophie Dupont has sought to assimilate and internalize a way of thinking that engages all levels of her being. It is a personal approach, an intimate experience that she shares with us today in her humble and profound work.
With this work, she invites the visitor to make an inner journey. A plunge into the secret mysteries of being. For Sophie Dupont, it is not a matter of translating a form of the great beyond. Nor is it a matter of simply producing a message or work from dogmatic speech. She rather seeks to perceive the music of the world. It is, therefore, from the angle of the intimate confidence and the sharing that this work should be understood. For the simple reason that the ensemble constituting Marking Breath crosses, at different points of reference, the existential, the temporal, and the geographical.
I am focused on creating works that directly reflect “man’s basic condition”. I am concerned with breath as a generator for the work. The life that each of us lives and the imprints we leave in the world interest me.
Sophie Dupont’s approach encourages us to consider life in the light of our breath, for only this awareness – of our body and mind – gives, according to the artist, meaning to our existence. The breath that we all share is natural and unconscious and gives rhythm to life. Respiration inhabits the human body; it sets it in motion. It is an infinite to- and-from movement. It is also a link between interiority and exteriority. With each inhalation, man absorbs his external environment. With each expiration, man releases his inner environment to the exterior. Outside becomes inside and vice versa. Respiration links man to his environment, but it also links the body to the mind. Body respiration. Psychic breathing. The unity of body and mind becomes, by breathing, a tangible reality. An indivisible whole. A consciousness where everything is present. An act of creation.
In Marking Breath, everything begins with breathing, with concentration, with an ample and stable breath. Based on a rigorous and simple system, Sophie Dupont sets out the modalities of a work to be inscribed into time and space. In the words of the artist:
In ‘Marking Breath’, I put the act of breathing – an action that unites us all – at the center of the work. From sunrise to sunset, I sit silently at a table. At each exhalation, I carve a line into a small metal panel positioned in front of me. This self-contained performance consists of nothing more than a single, repetitive act of recording. Seemingly subtle and simple, this performance is neither; it requires an extraordinary degree of restraint and endurance – a determined act of rebellion against the frenetic, stimulated society in which many of us live.
In this work, Sophie Dupont articulates the creative process as a form of discourse on life. The artist seeks to translate her experience of being in the world according to minimal and graphic forms. Once liberated from the physical and carnal envelope, Sophie Dupont manages to accomplish this by relying on an intense physical perception. At a given place, seated at a table from sunrise to sunset, she marks, methodically, each one of her expirations with one score on a metal plate. Every mark is a breath. It is a sign of life. It is a fragment. Every mark incarnates her state; it translates her emotion at a given moment. A kind of graphic rhythm, annotated with the date and location of the performance, emanates from these plates. This action also exposes the metal support, its thickness, its quality providing a certain expressiveness to the composition that relates the artist’s breathing with her fine and simple writing. In this way, Sophie Dupont creates a work that is accomplished over time, in a given space, and according to a precise and repetitive form of ritualization. Only two parameters can change from one performance to the next, from one location to another: the length of the performance, which depends on the sun’s geographical position, and the format and material of the marking support, which is systematically chosen according to the location.
I have so far done the work on zinc, copper, silver, gold, leather, a wall, canvas and soon Nexø Sandstone from Bornholm Island. The material is always chosen so there is a connection to the site – either locally or geographically. For example, the work in Nikolaj Church was made on a copper plate proportional to the church roof which is also in copper, and the work from Rio was on gold because of the gold mines in Brazil. I often use postcards and letter formats, as it is like writing with the breath instead of words.
Sophie Dupont creates poetic, meditative, silent works with very few means. The artist is entirely focused on the relationship between her body, the environment and other people. Indeed, these works give rise to encounters. The listener or spectator is invited to participate. She can then imitate the breathing of the artist. Face-to-face, artist and “listener” gradually discover their mutual presence. With this joint breathing, Sophie Dupont creates an unprecedented form of communication that provokes relations of great intensity. The artist does not aim at withdrawing from the world, but rather at penetrating it further. Her purpose is not to elucidate the obscurity or mystery that everyone passes through. She strives to grasp their resonance, their infinitude, without trying to contain them or control them.
She also tries to regain a state of communion with nature. Her metal plates appear like traces of landscapes that she has internally visualized in the countryside or in a city. She tries to find the creative vibration inhabiting these places. For Dupont, it is not so much a matter of addressing the external world, but rather to reveal the secret ties that unite man to a given environment. In this dynamic, the artist seeks to translate the movement of nature’s harmonious or contrary forces.
The work of Sophie Dupont relies on a helical way of thinking. She does not hesitate to repeat the same experience in different places, because the performance is also experienced by Sophie Dupont as an exercise in meditation and contemplation, almost as an inner prayer. The metal support, or inscription surface, becomes her living space while the mark becomes the instrument of her prayer. Focused on the gesture and the breath, she mobilizes her body and her mind, working with both joy and sacred apprehension. For her, this means translating her breath, which animates her, into every mark she draws on the support. The mark is no longer a mere line, but volume and contrast, form and movement, relief and mystery, line and secrecy. These are full/empty signs associating the visible and the invisible, the beginning and the end. Each plate is from now on a unit embodying the spirit of the artist, while the drawing, with its range of marks, is the sheet music of her soul.
In these drawings, we encounter from one performance to the next, from one city to the next, from one site to the next, the same animation, in which each line, each point draws a series of fixed states thus generating a linear composition. The points, the marks are like refrains reminding us that man and nature are intrinsically related in their movements and through the cycle of existence. Mystery of the form playing with the writing, the precision of the artist, questions showing on the empty and the full plate: this ensemble of signs evokes the ordeals of mystery and emptiness. “Form is only emptiness, emptiness itself only form”, recalls the Sutra of Heart, a canonical text in Buddhist philosophy written in the early centuries of our history. This global approach, which considers the evanescence of all things, is a fundamental part of the Buddhist spiritual path that Sophie Dupont attempts to traverse.
Marking Breath is a spiritual quest and each of these plates is a landscape of the soul. Sophie Dupont structures this work with her breath and her soul, making it radiate by responding to the beauty of the world, relying not on the object but on the encounter.