Visitors make a subterranean descent to the basement spaces of the Konig Gallery. This is an appropriate space for the display of Bosco Sodi’s work which is taken from the ground and made on the ground.
My deepest intention is that my work produces a feeling of totality – BS
The gallery’s walls are painted plastered breeze blocks with all the shapes of their form retained and seen, paralleling aspects of Sodi’s work and providing resonances between the exhibition space and the work.
Within, are nine clay spheres cut from the ground at Sodi’s studio in Oaxaca, Mexico, which represent the nine planets (as previously taught) of our solar system. Smoothed by hand and hardened via a complex drying process that takes months to complete and which results in natural gradations of colour together with cracks that evoke ravines and valleys.
Surrounding these spheres are a new ‘Cosmic’ series of Sodi’s roughly-textured relief paintings in which layers of Sodi’s paint mixture have been built up to create sculptural forms equating to the ranges and ravines of landscapes viewed from above. Working for the first time with a range of colours, Sodi combines pure pigments in hues of black, gold, white, grey and blue with glue and natural fibres to suggest shadows and light at play across these lunar landscapes.
Sodi creates large-scale impasto paintings made with layers of pure pigment, water, glue and organic materials (including sawdust and natural fibres). Laying the canvas horizontally, his paintings are essentially sculpted by hand over several days. He layers his paint mixture using his hands to create while maintaining the closest possible physical connection to his materials’ mixing, production, and application. He stops work at the first signs of cracking and then gives the process over to time and the elements. The heat of the sun completes the work forming chance cracks and accidental fissures across the surface as the work dries. Sometimes he will turn the canvas to use gravity as a latent force as the work dries and fissures appear. There is an alchemy of sorts to this process as Sodi manages to capture something of the changing and atmospheric qualities of light, air and weather in the paintings by means of their formation through environmental conditions over time.
In this exhibition, as viewers, we stand within the gravitational fields of Sodi’s planets and the widening galaxy in which they are set. We inhabit an installation that is suggestive of the vast, awe-inspiring nature of the universe, which invites reflection and meditation; the kind of awe-struck reflection which the Judeo-Christian scriptures suggest is the beginning of wisdom. Sodi’s spheres and paintings speak of silence, contemplation, the passage of time, of nature and humanity’s connection to it. As Sodi writes: “My deepest intention is that my work produces a feeling of totality, of connection to the viewer’s inner world, with their surroundings and with nature.”
Sodi has used the touch, tangibility and materiality of earth to evoke and contemplate the vast expanses of immaterial space. He uses the dust of the earth to recreate the dust that forms planets. He uses the particular to evoke the universal. He looks down for his materials and in his making, so we might look up in awe at the night sky and the galaxies.
We gather in contemplative space to view both the details of clay colours and cracks and the expanse of his installation and canvases. At one and the same time, his surfaces form planetary landscapes viewed from above – mountains, valleys, rivers – with the whites and golds of his paints evoking light on the cracks and crevices of these ravines and ranges while simultaneously also evoking celestial star systems.
With this exhibition, we descend to the depths in order that we then look up at the expanse above and around. Having done so, the exhibition ends with a tiny work of breath-taking beauty, an abstract cosmos painted flat without any building up of surfaces – heaven in a grain of sand.
Bosco Sodi: Totality, König London, 13 October – 13 November 2021