Bosco Sodi, at Pace Gallery

One Stop Arts magazine

In Bosco Sodi's first UK solo exhibition we are introduced to his abstract experiments in materiality and natural processes resulting in a beautiful, understated and contemplative reflection upon nature, time and place. In an age where so much in the art world, and wider culture, is striking to startle, to be something newer, louder and glossier, Sodi's subdued palette, materiality and austere approach is more than welcome.

A row of what appear to be similar and square sections of scorched and dried earth, ripped out of the earth and transplanted onto the white gallery walls await the visitor who steps off the busy Soho streets. At first glance the six works on display feel like monochrome and mundane abstracts compositions, but the closer you get the more you realise not is all as it seems.

Time reveals and, as with a Rothko, these need to be given the space and duration to for a brief relationship and meditation to open up. These works are not traditional paintings, but appear as sections of an unknown landscape removed from their site and presented anew. The dry and tightly compacted surface is coated with cracks, crevices and open wounds suggesting these are taken from a place that has suffered draught and abandon. The longer you spend the more you see.

Richard Mabey has written of the time he realised the East Anglian landscape in which he lives was not in fact flat but a profoundly intricate and deep topography. All that had to be done was to endeavour to perceive it outside of the normal human positional gaze and perspective and he saw a vast submerged landscape and a depth which, although only a few inches, created gradients enough to be perceptible to a hunting falcon and currents to lift insects six inches higher. The longer I spent with Sodi's work the more this sense came to me. The eye finds one of the wide, gaping cracks formed by the drying process and then traces it's route as it slowly decreases in size along an irregular pathway with tributaries of void feeding into it. Then the crack becomes such a fine path that the eye can no longer register it.

So I stepped closer until my nose was inches from the terrain and suddenly the cracks I could not make out before now appeared clearly and profoundly, each plotting it's own route and each having even smaller fractures feeding into them, open wounds ever diminishing in size. Fractal fissures of indeterminate scale inviting the largest landscapes to be imagined upon the smallest areas.

Duration isn't just the way which one feels compelled to experience the works, it's imbued within their very being during the creative process. Sodi constructs these as Pollock did, by standing over and layering his materials onto the ground through dripping and dropping. Using sawdust, pigment, natural fibre, water and glue a new ground slowly emerges beneath him over the course of a week. Then, for a further month or longer, the works are left to dry and organically compress and conjoin leaving the marks of ageing, cracking and opening up.

The result is combination of artistic intent and wilful abandon of the aesthetic outcome, a welcome approach and at odds to the norm where an artist is expected to enact a tight level of control and shaping towards their desired aesthetic outcome. The will to shape and mould is as old as mankind and it must take some resolve from the artist to hold back from interfering or affecting the processes once he has dripped the last of his ingredients into the slowly forming work.

When this new 'ground' is then taken through ninety degrees and hung upon the wall the effect is powerful. Not unlike a study of a randomly chosen metre square of landscape by Boyle Family, it reads as celebration of the everyday and re-locating the normal into a position more commonly occupied by the unique, inviting us to consider the magic and beauty within the ordinary and overlooked. We are looking into this particular man-made construction, but at once we are also looking deeper, into the forces and history of nature and everything we take for granted.

All the works are untitled as Sodi does not wish to instil any preconceptions into the viewer, instead wishing the work to suggest whatever the reader wishes it to. However, the strong feelings of decay, impermanence and our relationship to nature and the processes which brought us to be resonate strongly.

That these abstract and accidental compositions are held tightly within rigid rectilinear geometry, the most man-made and un-natural of shapes, brings forward the relationship between man and the world in which he inhabits, the control and subjectivity of nature and land and reminds us, as we need to be reminded of as these appear so strongly as sections of ground carefully carved out of a vast landscape and transplanted to a Soho gallery, that these are indeed a composition and creation by an artist – but one who willingly uses forces of nature to have the final say.