While art is often full of big ideas, it’s uncommon to see work that is sized as big as its ambitions. Local artist Magnus Sodamin has taken his work to new heights, literally, with Into the Rainbow Vein.
Among the works in the show are colossal canvases that feature stunning ribbons of paint made into abstract shapes. The works are enormous undertakings, using dozens of gallons of paint, hundreds of square feet of canvas — with works weighing several hundred pounds each.
While the majority of the art is purely abstract, it’s easy to make the connection between the dreamy imagery to stunning images of the cosmos and cosmic phenomena. The works that do depict objects in reality feature hand-drawn flowers, which are poured over with layers of paint, which is then peeled away to reveal themselves.
BooksIIII Bischof, principal of Primary Projects, says he discovered Sodamin at the final group show of his graduating bachelor of fine arts class at New World School of the Arts. Bischof thinks that his work is characterized by a sense of wonder and discovery.
“I think Sodamin’s work shows an approachable chaos that is intriguing to me. It’s not chaos in the sense of madness. It’s chaos in the sense of salvation, like [one] trying to find something through this madness that [they] will fall in love with. ”
The show is ambitious by many standards, but especially so for Sodamin, who is 26 and showing on his own for the first time. Aramis O’Reilly, associate professor and head of the painting and drawing department at the New World School of the Arts college, says that it is unusual for artists to get a solo show at an established gallery so soon after they receive their bachelor’s degree. But he says that Sodamin has a very strong artistic voice, especially for someone his age.
“I think the work in the show [particularly the larger paintings] shows the mark of someone who is chasing after the bigger ideas in art. He didn’t cut corners or be safe in that regard. … His work is a culmination of a lot of hard work as well as really good painting and researching.”
While Sodamin is a full-time artist now, it wasn’t always his passion. He first became interested in art through his grandmother, a Norwegian expressionist painter who encouraged him to paint. Later, he says he opened an art history textbook in high school and would mimic the styles of artists like Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg and Pablo Picasso, which he says wasn’t fulfilling.
“I realized I wasn’t making these paintings better than them but I was just making these imitations [of their work]. By doing that for such a long time, I started trying to find my own voice in painting.”
The process by which Sodamin paints is rather unusual but also recalls the techniques of contemporary masters. He creates most of his works on the floor, a technique Jackson Pollock used to create his famous drip paintings.
His larger canvases cover most of his studio floor. He pours gallons of paint in different colors and textures onto the canvas, manipulating the canvas to create the shapes and the feel he hopes to create. He will then manipulate the paint further by applying different treatments to get the results he desires.
There are smaller works in the show, including a room lined with 12-inch square works that show the artist experimenting with different techniques — such as playing with the glossiness of the paint or the surface he is painting on (some of the works are on more traditional canvas while some are painted on mirrors).
While Sodamin’s technique is hands-on and deliberate, he says his artistic process by its very nature creates a certain lack of control. Because of this, he says that part of his work as an artist is working with that lack of control, seeing where it takes him and accepting the final result.
“When I make my work, I’m kind of a spectator as well. I feel like I’m observing something. I feel like in my paintings, I kind of lose my identity in them because I feel like they’re very organic and very natural and they kind of form themselves.