Theme header Sovay Berriman - Back Lane West

Sovay Berriman

This August we welcome Sovay Berriman to the Back Lane West project space for a residency supported by public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund.

Throughout the social restrictions of COVID 19 Sovay like so many of us has missed hugging her friends and family, and casually touching the shoulder or arm of any person with whom she is chatting in the street, a shop, a bar…  She says “I think of my Gran, now dead, who missed touching and being touched once she became house-bound. Then with a move to a Cornwall Care home touch was renewed and the gentle carers would make a point of touching, hand holding and head stroking. It became clearer to me then what an intimacy we share, even with strangers or those we cannot precisely remember, when we touch.”

Sovay has been working on a series of domestic-scale objects for a participatory work that tests the relationships we develop with objects with which we have daily contact. Wondering about the varying levels of intimacy and affection we may have for certain objects in our lives, she has begun to pose a series of questions:

Is it through touch, or familiarity, that we build our relationships with these objects?

How does something manufactured by another become our own, through our particular marks of touch, wear or pattern of behaviour?

Does every object develop an individual patina through its touch with us and the world, reflecting its relationship with us?

In times of restricted movement, and confinement, do objects such as these become closer to us?

Do they begin to perform different roles or take on a greater significance?

Her work as a plumber, using her hands each day, is inextricably linked to this work. During the lockdown she found herself designated as a key worker – able to continue to enter homes and workplaces to carry out essential work, handling and touching appliances, objects and materials that are often paid little attention despite the vital roles they play and labour they perform.

During her time at Back Lane West Sovay will be working with different materials to test forms for small sculptures and thinking about hand-holding, touch, the lines between labour and leisure and where choice in relation to these lies.


Sovay Berriman predominantly works with sculpture, drawing, text and event, often using fractured staging, repeated symbols and fantastical narratives. She is interested in the responsibilities and potential of an element or individual, the possibilities of the collective, and questioning the balance of power.

She often references the forms and evolutions of the natural landscape, performance spaces and archeological and industrial sites within the structures and situations she builds. Moments of rest, and, gradual and dynamic action are focused upon, amidst a broader view of the context that created them. Additional areas of reference have included invertebrates, gothic literature, department stores, and depression era musicals.

Working with a variety of materials depending on the project – for instance acrylic sheet, steel, copper, clay and cloth – Sovay is mindful of environmental responsibility and will often make use of waste materials in her work – such as recycling redundant copper pipe, discarded etching plates, and off-cuts of timber. She will also re-use elements of her own older works in new pieces, seeing this as a natural evolution of her body of work, as well as an efficient use of material.

Sovay has exhibited widely across the UK, and worked with a number of projects and institutions developing commissions and participatory works. Past working relationships have included Spike Island, Plymouth Art Centre, Exeter Phoenix, Castlefield, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Royal Standard, Outpost, Contemporary Art Society, Bridget Crone’s A Theatre to Address and Magnus Quaife’s Malgras Naudet.