Words by Neil Vazquez
Miami Artist Magnus Sodamin is obsessed with size. Large canvases, broad brushstrokes, sides of walls, Sodamin’s chaotic aesthetic is barely contained by the large surfaces on which he paints. There’s nothing too big for Sodamin, in 2014 the artist wrapped an entire roller coaster.
Sodamin debuted his first solo show at Primary Projects in early 2014 to rave reviews. He capped it off by painting his first mural during Art Basel last month.The New Times caught up with him at his studio on the grounds of the Deering Estate, where he is currently in residence. The historic mansion and several smaller cottages, is on one of the only protected natural preserves in the county. The idyllic setting is the perfect contrast for Sodamin’s work, dazzling worlds of cosmic chaos ripped from immediate surroundings.
The twenty something looks like he’s caught somewhere between past and present, he sports a handlebar mustache, printed tee shirt, jeans, and high-top sneakers. It’s an image that reflects his work, an aesthetic that’s deeply rooted in the Abstract Expressionist tradition of post-war America, but shaped for a modern Tumblr-influenced sensibility.
Last month, he was commissioned, along with several muralist to paint one of the exterior walls of Jose De Diego Middle School in Wynwood. “That was one of my favorite projects, just because of the size of it, I’ve never done anything that big,” Sodamin said.
Under pressure to get the project done within the small window of time, and under siege by Miami’s unpredictably rainy weather, Sodamin worked the constraints to his advantage. The damp wall stopped the spray paint from quickly drying and gave him the chance to swirl the colors to his liking. Working with the unexpected is what Sodamin loves most about making art. The result was not just an trademark Sodamin creation in form, but in processes as well.
Like Jackson Pollock, Sodamin seeks the comfort of a large canvas. “I like getting lost in them, when I take a brush to a small piece it just doesn’t feel right,” Sodamin said. Sodamin prefers the physicality of painting and the energy behind his larger pieces.
Back in his crowded studio at the Deering Estate, Sodamin contemplates still-lifes he’d photographed earlier. Sodmin had photographed flowers around the estate’s grounds, rearranging them, shooting them underwater and refracted through crystals. “I must look like the crazy artist to the summer camp kids that run around here,” he Sodamin.
The resulting multicolored pieces are studies for his larger canvases. It’s a way to contain the chaos, or rather, to let chance and randomness work their magic on his pieces.
When it’s time to get to work he stacks canvases – all in various stages of completion – and layers neon hues over one another. Sodamin then hangs them up before they dry to let gravity make their mark. “This is a perfect space for me, because I can basically work on the floor, then pin up the canvasses to watch them drip,” he explained.
But murals and mammoth canvases aren’t his only specialties. Sodamin wants to slowly start incorporating wearable pieces in his work. Recently he started experimenting with making scarfs with his colorful prints. Using them as soft sculpture he’s draping them on subjects to create what he menacingly calls “phantoms.” It’s a work in progress, but a work that Sodamin is hell bent on exploring. “I want to make suits of one of my prints, maybe I’ll give them out to people every time they buy one of my paintings,” guffawed the painter.
So what’s next for Sodamin? He’s currently focused on completing several grants for a large scale performance piece. If you’re interested in taking a first hand look at some of his recent work, you can swing by the “International Friendship Exhibition” in Downtown Miami, where he’s exhibiting work until the end of February, or you can follow him on instagram @magnificentmagnus to get an up-to-date feed on the evolution of his aesthetic.