Sonya Rademeyer was born in 1964 in Zimbabwe, where she lived until 1983 after which she immigrated to South Africa. After completing her high school, she pursued a career in nursing, qualifying as a nursing sister, midwife and a psychiatric nurse in 1986. In 1998 she moved to the Netherlands where, whilst working as a cardiac nurse during the day, she started her fine arts degree at night at Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam.
After obtaining her BA (FA) in 3-dimensional art in 1996, she returned to South Africa where she continued working both as a nurse and an artist until 2002. In 2005 she commenced her MA (VA) at Stellenbosch University where she started exploring the relationship of empathy to her art, incorporating video as short video pieces mainly in installations. During this time, it became very clear to her, how, having worked intimately with patients’ pain for close to 20 years, her own embodied empathy had become the lens through which she filtered her lived experience. She remains anchored in the idea that it is her embodied empathy that sieves what she experiences through her senses, extending well beyond to what is physically known to her.
Her earlier artworks often referenced traces of the inner body in a more direct way, drawing bodily rhythms and cycles onto – or either using – medical graph paper which was later replaced by Braille-printed paper. This brought her closer to the idea of using her own body to capture traces, which remains at the core of her work today.
Immersed in the sensing of traces in her everyday experience she uses her body to capture and translate them into form, often through the vehicle of sound or movement.
She is inspired by the research of the Russian psychologist, Alfred. L. Yarbus who studied saccadic eye movements of complex images (1950 -1960), particularly his work on how gaze is influenced by thought. Linked to this is her belief that her observational skills gained as a nurse directly influences the way she sees: always scanning below the surface level in order to pick up traces of potential fragility that are perhaps missed by most. She is deeply influenced by the work of the artist Julie Mehretu (Ethiopian/USA) as well as Emma McNally (UK) who both incorporate elements of sound into their work.
Sound and deep listening has become increasingly important to her since 2014 which is reflected in her drawings as well as her printmaking, a medium she has pursued since 2015 for its potential to explore fragile line work experimentally. As an artist who has historically used mostly non-traditional materials, she is currently exploring ways in which she can print using her self-collected soils as print medium.
She has had various solo shows and has been part of group shows in USA, Romania, Egypt, The Netherlands, Palestine, Poland, Bulgaria, Senegal and Argentina as well as representing South Africa at the 2008 Dak’Art Biennale.