For the intimacy issue of Varoom Billie Muraben meets Sophi Miyoko Gullbrants, whose work, whether it’s for Dame, a sexual wellness brand, or in her freelance commissions, has a constant lean towards intimacy, whether that’s in relation to other people, with yourself, or how we relate to the wider world.
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Intimacy seems to be a constant theme through your work, is it something you’ve always been interested in representing? 

It’s only on seeing my body of work in hindsight, that I realise there really is a through-line. I think it’s born out of my college work, and a constant craving for what at the time I thought was sex or a relationship, but really was intimacy. I’m always drawing that out of editorials, where I get to pick out what’s amplified emotionally. The job as I see it, is to represent moments of closeness between people or between objects.

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There’s a balance between directness and softness, light and shadow in your work. Is this a conscious decision?

Softness and directness really comes through in who I am as a person — how I want to move through the world, or how I speak, being candid but also acting with empathy. That’s definitely a part of myself that I can see in all of my work. 

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The balance between softness and weight, or dimensionality, is influenced by my ability to sculpt. Before working at Dame, I was fabricating large-scale puppets, and when I draw I’m doing similar additive and subtractive practices. Everything is built up as if it’s clay; elements are removed and then worked back into. That weight in the objects in my work contrasts with the weightlessness of everything around them. 

In a time of isolation and distance, Gullbrants has been seeking warmth, drawing out the emotionality of complex stories, and encouraging us to connect.

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