Sophia Tassew, born in Holland, raised in Peckham, is a 19-year-old creative finding and defining herself in London’s creative world. Her most recent project 140 BPM, a fine art exhibition themed around Grime and Hip-Hop, was a huge success showcasing pieces of Sophia’s artwork - a series of film posters inspired by classic R&B, Hip-Hop and Grime albums, her pieces were also featured on BuzzFeed, the Fader, and Saint Heron. Pairing film and music, Sophia’s minimalist movie posters are a result of many passions, “When I listen to music I paint a picture in my head or a film […] being interested in visual art in general and being a big music head it just comes natural to me.” Sophia is not just an artist, she is a gallerist, she loves giving other interesting and expressive artists a platform to showcase their work, her 140 BPM exhibition showcased other visual artists alongside herself and this was just the start for Sophia Tassew, who is already thinking up a “bigger and better” project for this March.
Like many artists, Sophia’s creativity sparked during her childhood - “at a very young age, all I was into was art, TV, and film. I was basically into everything that the teachers hated and everything that my Mum wasn’t really down with.” Growing up, Sophia’s environment played a large roll in influencing her creativity, “With my own work I always try to relate it back to my culture, where I come from, being a teenager from South East London […] I was born in Holland and moved to London when I was about 3, I grew up around Peckham for most of my life. South East London’s had a lot of impact on my creativity, just the environment, the people, the clothes, the way people speak, it’s the little things, which in my eyes is beautiful, but to other people, maybe not.” Peckham has changed a lot over recent years, and Sophia admits recently, “It’s gentrified as fuck, it’s just like, so different”, there has been a host of little cafes and warehouse club nights starting up in the area, this of course has its drawbacks and benefits, we’ve all been hearing good things about the nightlife in Peckham - “you know what, I don’t wanna sound like a hypocrite, I went to one of the clubs, one of the local clubs, it was quite good” but what Sophia loves most about Peckham is the old community, “my favourite thing was the people, the culture, I think there was a proper sense of family. I knew literally every shopkeeper, I knew the people who would sit across the roads […], you know what I mean?”.
Last year, Sophia decided to leave University, although she understands education is important - “there are so many courses that might be super helpful, but for me personally, I don’t think University is essential, I’d rather go out and get the work, get the portfolio”. There are many reasons Sophia decided to leave her studies in Media and Communications, she admits “I just felt like I wasn’t gaining or learning anything, I was feeling uninspired […] maybe I expected too much from Uni, like in the movies or something, but I found it creatively draining”. After leaving University Sophia had landed herself a full-time job as the youngest Junior Art Director at FCB Inferno. Although she says she doesn’t feel 19 sometimes, she enjoys being apart of the creative department - “the project managers set you briefs […] they then brief us, we are the creatives […] the art director looks at visuals, how do we go about a campaign? aesthetics, things like that”.
We began talking about diversity in the creative industries, a topic I can tell Sophia has thought about - “I can say that it’s not diverse at all. Me being the youngest and being Black feels good because I am contributing something new. Organic insight. Something authentic and not just what they think young people would like. But it is disappointing. It is disappointing”. At least we can see that at some levels, barriers are being broken, however, it is slow. When I ask Sophia about being so young at Inferno she acknowledges, “I think they doubted me at first because I had never worked in an advertising agency before and hadn’t really worked in a creative professional environment and being 19 I think they kind of thought what does she know about campaigns […] what do we give her to do?”
In October 2016, Sophia curated and exhibited at her first show, 140 BPM. At 19 she got to check off one of her life ambitions pretty early, “I have always wanted to have my own art exhibition, always, it’s been a dream […] the idea kind of stemmed from the posters I made, only mine was a small body of work, so I thought why not to turn it into something bigger […] I wanted to bring other people on board. So I hand-picked the artists.” After that, the idea became a reality rather quickly after she spoke with a friend who put her in touch with a marketing agency - “Converse bought the idea and it just kind of flourished from there”. There is a lack of fine art exhibitions in London where young minorities can view art relating to their personal experiences and I think this accounted the exhibitions success. “It was so overwhelming seeing the reception, I heard there was a line around the corner, that was so lovely to hear […] I feel like a lot of us aren’t exposed to fine art so it’s really sick to have a fine art exhibition, for us.”
If you could turn any 3 albums into a documentary or film?
“Boy In Da Corner - Dizzy Rascal, Telefone - Noname, good kid, m.A.A.d city - Kendrick Lamar”
Favourite movie soundtrack?
“Boyz n the Hood”
Who or what inspires you?
“Aesthetically Missy Elliot, mostly her work in the 90s, the make up and music videos.”
“My environment, people, culture, I am very passionate about young people and our culture, just being super unapologetic, expressive, and proud of where I come from.”
Favourite visual artists?
“Frida Kahlo, Anish Kapoor”
Describe London’s creative scene?
What is generation 94/5 to you?
“We are just on a completely different wave. There’s a difference in what we appreciate. I would say we are nostalgic.”