A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains / Axel Vervoordt Gallery / Hong Kong / Feb 13 – Sep 5, 2020 / Christine Chan Chiu /
The colour turquoise holds great significance for Bosco Sodi, so much so that the artist’s first solo show at Axel Vervoordt Gallery Hong Kong was devoted to exploring the nuances and subtleties of this pigment.
Created during his two-week residency in Hong Kong last December, the works in it are made with sawdust and inspired by the artist’s experiences in the city. Completing the multi-dimensional exhibition was a selection of the artist’s large clay sculptures, presented on the floor.
The title of the exhibition references the famous 12-metre-long shanshui landscape painting of turquoise-tipped peaks by Chinese painter Wang Ximeng (1113 AD). Focusing on the colour turquoise was cathartic for the artist; not only has the mineral turquoise long been seen as a good-luck talisman in many cultures, but its unique, stunning colour also recalls precious memories from the artist’s childhood. It conjures images of cool waters amid lush landscapes, scenery found both in Sodi’s home city of Oaxaca, Mexico, and in Hong Kong.
While Wang’s mountains are two-dimensional and only form part of the landscape, Sodi’s tactile creations are three-dimensional and are the landscape – seemingly tangible interpretations complete with undulations and protrusions.
Made with dyed, locally sourced sawdust mixed with white glue, so unusual is their grainy, sponge-like texture that it calls to mind forgotten moss-covered forests or hidden, encrusted deep-sea corals. They are applied to the canvas in a variety of ways: thrown, manoeuvred with sticks and spread with the palms.
All of the artist’s works are process-driven, reminiscent of the action works of the abstract expressionists as well as Japan’s gutai artists, who believed in performative immediacy. They reflect the artist’s philosophy of “embracing the accident”; each painting has to follow its own path. Because Sodi’s ideas never come predetermined, the paintings’ journeys of creation connect the artist and the painting on a spiritual level, conveying emotions that are raw, spontaneous and full of energy.
Complementing the turquoise creations were six earthenware sculptures, a cuboid and five spheres. They are minimalistic, organic works made of clay that the artist harvested from a hillside, then mixed, sculpted and fired at his home in Mexico. Made of earth, water and fire, they were naturally cracked during the firing process with uneven patches and occasional fissures. Presented on the gallery floor, they prompt the viewer to meander around while looking at the paintings.
Just as Chinese shanshui paintings encourage viewers to delve into the landscape, Sodi’s exhibition could be interpreted as a physical metaphorical re-enactment of this journey. Despite the allusion to nature’s grandeur, these are intrinsically works that pay homage to the colour turquoise in all its brilliance and its associations, simultaneously showcasing the artist’s skilful manipulation and tireless exploration of elemental textures. The presentation was a visual feast that celebrated the serendipitous encounters between emotion, energy and time.