Ahead of his Hong Kong show, Bosco Sodi meditates on painting as therapy

Ahead of his Hong Kong show, Bosco Sodi meditates on painting as therapy

On view from 13 February, the Mexican artist’s solo exhibition at Axel Vervoordt is the culmination of a two-week residency in the city

Mexican artist Bosco Sodi’s signature lava-like material paintings – an otherworldly combination of intense monochrome pigment, sawdust, pulp, natural fibres and glue – have been given an intriguing twist following his two-week artist residency at Axel Vervoordt’s Hong Kong gallery. The uncharacteristically large body of work, part of a solo exhibition opening on 13 February, encapsulates the artist’s familiar use of lush colours and organic earthiness.

But when Sodi started working in the airy, light-filled, industrial loft in Wong Chuk Hang, he found the locally sourced sawdust absorbs pigments completely differently, transforming the results. ‘When I paint in Berlin the sawdust is very dark; in Mexico the one I get is very white,’ he says.

Untitled, 2019, by Bosco Sodi, mixed media on canvas. Photography: Ngai Lung Tai of Random Art Workshop. Courtesy of the artist and Axel Vervoordt Gallery

This is also the first time the artist has worked with turquoise, although it has long had an emotional connection for him. Sodi explains, ‘The colour reminds me of my childhood and [the Mexico edge of] the Caribbean Sea, the Agua Azul waterfalls, and cenotes. It is also my mother’s favourite colour.’

Sodi mixes his own paints and stretches linen specially sourced from South Korea to create the canvases, before starting to work quickly on several of varying sizes at the same time, applying the dense, wet, organic mixture in rough layers by hand, adding handfuls and smearing and pushing the material until the first major fissure appears as it dries and contracts. ‘It is a very organic and instinctive process,’ he notes.

The artist finds the process of making his art meditative. When, as a young boy, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and hyperactivity, his mother took him to an art class. ‘Painting became an escape for me. This is my therapy in a way and I still prefer to work quietly without any disturbance.’ The show has 17 paintings ranging from 26.5 x 17.5cm to 180 x 220cm, but each monochromatic surface is different in its own interesting ways with a distinct materiality, from the small exuberant pieces like molten volcanic lava bubbling on the surface to the larger works’ sheer, raw, visceral landscapes. Some are dramatically slashed as if the material had split.

It is the curious combination of control and spontaneity that excites Sodi the most. ‘I focus much more on the process than on the outcome,’ he says. ‘The shape and scale of the canvas, the painting as an object that transmits meaning — everything else becomes secondary to the experience of colour. What matters is the power of what you see.’ The untitled works are presented alongside five clay sculptures shaped and smoothed by hand into precise cubes and circles before being fired at Sodi’s Casa Wabi studio in Mexico in a traditional brick kiln, giving the clay a terracotta hue. §

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