Sowat : "Tempus Fugit"
November 17 - December 17, 2016
From September 2015 to August 2016, Lek & Sowat were the first Graffiti writers to become artists-in-residence at the prestigious Academy of France in Rome, the Villa Médicis. A mark of recognition for this atypical duo whose path has led them from the urban wastelands of the Mausolée project to the underground ventilation shafts of the Palais de Tokyo and the permanent collections of the Centre Pompidou.
More over, it ment a fresh start for the artists: the discovery of working every day inside a studio, both on two or four hands pieces. During these 12 months spent on top of the Pincian Hill, sharing the strange comfort of Ingres’ former studio with Lek, Sowat took advantage of this Roman retreat and fleeting time to create a series of pieces currently exhibited at the Galerie Le Feuvre. Thirty-nine large-sized works, scrupulously composed and staged in the gardens of the Villa. Thirty-nine paintings that pursue his research into calligraphy, lines and movement, drawing as much inspiration from the engraved marble slabs of the Roman Codex as from Cholo Writing, the Latino gangs’ art from the Los Angeles of his youth, thus creating a tension between the primitive aspect of his work and the stone and plaster of antique statues.
What can one see in these paintings? Above all, a saturation of signs that leave no breathing space or breaks to the compositions. The eye is lost in a maze of scriptures, some of which are clear, while others are barely sketched or covered. Although some patterns fade, leaning towards abstraction, the lines remain, with the variety of reactions allowed by mixing china ink with chemical substances. A fine balance between geometry and alchemy.
Each work has its own strong impact while offering a sens of repetition. We know thanks to Kierkegaard that this repetition is the movement through which one can grasp the truth of time. On Sowat’s paintings, the repetition of signs enables the artist to confine space. What matters here is speed, the sensation of sliding, of continuity in the movement, just like tags, pushed towards their most ornamental dimension.
The colors, all vibrant, give a highly emotional impact to the works, depending on the combinations chosen by the artist. Blood and light, blue and steel, purple and gold, coal and fire, each canvas evokes a universe, references, an invitation to dream, and seeks to revive the ancient alchemical myth of transforming lead into something else. The staging in the gardens and galleries of the Villa Médicis shows what these paintings owe to their environment, to these ghosts moulded in plaster, sometimes limbless or scalped, who rise up in every nook and crane of the Palace and are its real pensionnaires. At times, the paintings play on contrast, and at other times they blend into the landscape, extending a line or a shade. It is a way of reassessing the value of these works, most of which were created in the shadow of the Italian Renaissance, by interacting with them, highlighting the power and richness of artifice rather than naturalness, and of the copy rather than the original. Therefore, in a world where, as Guy Debord, the French Marxist writer said, “truth is a moment of falsehood”, it is a way of being contemporary. A contemporary artist.