Sofie Berzon MacKie | Islington 1988

Islington is one of London’s northernmost boroughs. The artist grew up there till the age of seven. The exhibition’s name derives from a silver-engraved inscription on a cardboard frame of an old photo showing the children from her 1988 kindergarten class.

Since 2012, Sofie constantly visits her home and family in London, and she always takes a camera with her. She is drawn to the same places she remembers, the neighborhood streets, the gardens, the private courtyards, and the manicured urban landscaping. London is waiting for her; it’s always the same city with the old construction, the one she remembers from her childhood, like a bubble that time has not touched. There is a comforting and magical feeling to that.

She was educated on English children’s literature such as “The Wind in the Willows” and books by Beatrix Potter, who wrote and illustrated her favorite book, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” In her stories, animals are animated, and flowers speak – there’s a mixture of imagination and reality. These became crucial parts of her’s and her contemporaries’ identity, who were all educated on the same books, illustrations, and films.

She remembers playtime in the yard, a magical garden enclosed between the houses, and a wall with dark red bricks. She would collect ladybugs and put them in a jar; scales and spiders with long legs. A whole magical world where all stories blend in with reality and everything is possible. She remembers trips to the vast parks that London abounds in, with serene lakes and herds of elk, flowing streams, and birds; that’s how they spent their weekends. She spent her world walking with her mother in the neighborhood gardens and streets, in conversations with the small robin redbreast nestling in the home garden. The trips with the camera returned her to that sense of magic that anything in the world is possible.

The silvery black and white photographs in the exhibition depict the white windows of the house overlooking the landscape: The street with the stone sidewalks and the London street lights; her grandmother’s, in whose house they lived, Camellia bushes; the yard and the wild growing rose bushes; the dark opening gaping between the bushes and trees in the yard, behind it a wall; the square at the heart of the garden with the soldiers’ monument, where the winged woman statue is located, near the school where she studied. The park with the yellow daffodils; the air heavy from their smell. The same daffodils, hyacinths, pansies, and ivy grow everywhere, so much that they become part of your being, alongside the ancient chestnut trees enchanted in fall, reaching their arms out to touch you. Squirrels roam the creek banks and between the tree branches as if everything belongs to them. Nature takes over the city. That is how she grew up.

A piece of nature of this kind penetrates the gallery’s center. A rockery of gray stones with moss crawling on them (all winter, she collected lumps of moss and grew them for this purpose), and a hollow log of wood from which ivy grows. The niche was painted deep green and installed with a small monitor showing a dark video of wild bushes with fireflies swarming through them. The wall with the old window was also painted green; the whiteness of the window-frame corresponds with the windows photographs from the London house. The photographs were printed in an intimate size and pleasantly scattered, hung like they would have been in a home’s living room.

Sofie Berzon MacKie returns with her camera to her childhood neighborhood in London, collecting glittery and beautiful pieces for her nest, like that raven. And she never stops looking, maybe for herself and maybe for her mother, who she lost in that childhood, trying to gather it into herself using the memories and the sights.

An intimate and moving exhibition that brings the viewer into the artist’s world.

Dr. Ziva Jelin

More images from the exhibition