Sowat

Born in 1978

Lives & works in Paris (FR/US)

Biography

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biography

Sowat is a Franco-American artist based in Paris. His close and long-standing collaboration with Lek continuously pervades his own practice. This duo of avid travellers and site-specific artists, create huge murals and installations that challenge public space. Their adventures as Lek & Sowat enrich their respective paths both artistically and sensitively. Following a year as fellows of the Villa Medici (2015-2016), they returned to Paris as artists-in-residence at the Cité internationale des arts. For Sowat, this studio in Montmartre became the ideal backdrop to further grow as an artist, enjoying the precious time and liberty artistic residences have to offer. It was a hideout, a secret escape from onlookers who pass him by and usually scrutinise his works when he paints in public. A time for research, to put everyday life on hold, and a more importantly, a time for experiments as he deepens his study of calligraphy, both on paper and canvas.

In his studio, Sowat tackles more intimate aspects of his art, further exploring calligraffiti, a discipline at the heart of his practice. To achieve this, he uses tools and materials generally considered to belong to conflicting worlds: graffiti and fine arts. Sowat is a go-between and his paintings aim at building bridges between these two realms of creation.

This studio time, spent away from the world, allowed Sowat to renew and refine his artistic gesture. His paintings bear witness to a multifaceted language which relies first and foremost on its references: the art of tagging, close to Sowat's heart, breathes life into his shapes, curls, twists, spots and script lines directly inspired by a range of calligraphic aesthetics that widely adorn our modern cityscapes: Los Angeles' framed cholo writing (where half of his family lives), Latin inscriptions carved on Roman temples' stones and marbles, Arabic calligraphy the artist saw while in to Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, exquisite hebrew fonts rediscovered while working in Tel Aviv, as well as Mandarin ideograms he closely observed during a stay in Hong Kong. Sowat embeds his taste for written paintings in global references, ranging from references to ancient art history to the micro-history of global cities (such as Los Angeles), assimilated during his countless travels around the globe.

His canvases show endless variations of the new alphabet of shape shifting sentences. His art is therefore a celebration of signs, bursting through an organised chaos wanted by the artist who, as he mutes into a demiurge-alchemist, chooses to deliberately play with his own technical mastery. By adding water and various other "fluids" to his paintings and artistic gestures, he creates chemical reactions that transform the phrasing of his canvases.

The iridescent power of these paintings let us catch glimpses, at a distance, of torrential rains, deep colourful forests, quivering swarms and, when one gets closer, texts and letter shapes draped in camouflage adornments, allowing us to trace the work's origin, as closely as possible to the artist' original movements.

Bénédicte Alliot

Director, Cité internationale des arts

Text published in Sowat's exhibition catalogue

"La mécanique des fluides"

2019 - LE FEUVRE & ROZE Gallery