"As an artist it is my intention to try and interpret the theatre of life that unfolds so beautifully in nature. I am totally captivated by these dramatic and humorous scenarios. I try to express human emotions within my work so my images reflect my belief that man and animal share the same living spirit."
Growing up in rural British Columbia, Lyle Sopel has lived close to nature for most of his life. As a youth he traveled across Europe acquainting himself with the history and tradition of western sculpture and studying the masters. Works of Brancusi, Rodin, and Moore especially fascinated him. After returning to British Columbia his goal was to pursue a career in anthropology while studying ancient art and cultures. However, as he recalls, "One day on the way to class I happened to view students working in the sculpture studio. From that moment on I knew all I wanted to do was sculpt."
On completing his visual art studies at Vancouver's Langara Art College, he was honored with the distinction of receiving the Vic Scott Award for Visual Arts. Following this training, Sopel's talent was recognized early by two patrons of the arts. His professional practice emerged while under contract to those benefactors, who provided materials, equipment, studio space and acquired the finished works. After three years the body of work was exhibited in Sopel's first private showing. A well established prominent collector of fine art works purchased the entire collection from Sopel's patrons. Through those early years Sopel developed the skills and expertise to begin an independent practice.
Sopel's first studio was a rustic workshop located on a busy street, where he worked without the luxuries of heat and hot water. The turning point came in 1986 concurrent with Vancouver's World Fair, Expo 86, where Sopel's works were exhibited and admired by visitors from around the globe. Soon after moving his studio to a more accommodating and visible location, Sopel was acknowledged as a master jade sculptor in a cover story featured in National Geographic Magazine.
With rising international acclaim and increasing demand for his works, Sopel's practice quickly outgrew the new studio. He purchased a warehouse overlooking the Burrard Inlet, at the foot of Vancouver's north- shore mountains. The move to this location was the fulfillment of the artist's dream: to build a state-of-the-art studio, not merely a building to house his stones and tools, but a studio built to support an environment for inspiration.
Throughout the next decade Sopel aspired to fulfill his dream of becoming a renowned fine art gem sculptor. His passion for his work continued to build a solid group of international collectors.
In 1992 the Lord Abbot of a Thai Buddhist monastery, searched the globe for an artist who had mastered the art of sculpting jade. He was interested in creating the largest sitting Buddha the world has ever seen. Halfway across the globe he saw, in a dream, the site where the jade boulder could be found. The location was traced to British Columbia. A five year search resulted in the location of the perfect thirty five ton boulder. He then commissioned Sopel to advise on the sculpting of this admired monument.
Serendipitously, nine years later Sopel was commissioned to create a life sized Jade Buddha in 2003. This was the largest Jade Buddha to be created in North America. This statue is installed in a private residence in Palm Springs, California.
Sopel's jade, precious gem and newly evolved bronze sculptures are housed in the collections of royalty, fine art connoisseurs and heads of state from around the world. Lahaina Galleries is proud to represent this great artist and his wonderful sculptures.