What is it about the light in the south of France that has transfixed so many artists?

 

Van Gogh wrote about its « energy » and lost his balance trying to harness it.  Its abundance and intensity, its purity, led such forward-thinking artists as Cezanne, Gauguin, Monet and Matisse to alter their approach to depicting colour and form in their work.  Shadows were cut away as is with a sharp knife and the landscape was reduced to elemental forms.  In the centuries-old villages Aix, Arles, Collioure and Giverny, modern art was born.

 

            Coming of age as an artist in Toulouse, France, Philippe Sokazo fell under the sway of this light, this way of seeing.  While his hard-edged painting style has echoes of Matisse’s late work , particularly his cut out paper shapes . Sokazo has brought a broader narrative dynamic to these abstractions.  As well, having moved to Vancouver in 2005, Sokazo was introduced to the cultural traditions of First Nations art whereby such « characters » as the raven and eagle assume an identity beyond their earthly selves. 

In Sokazo’s world, his strongly-coloured shapes may suggest mythical creatures such as the hipposnagon and the snearthquake, creations of a very fanciful artistic imagination. 

 

            Still, it is colour and form that are most at play here.  While no longer under the influence of the French sun, Philippe Sokazo still beguiles the viewer with brilliant colours.  For his solo exhibition at Snap Contemporary Art titled « Pure », Sokazo presents a series of dazzling new paintings.  It is in the « qacontrasts and dissonances » (as Sonia Delaunay wrote originally of fauvism) of all these pure colours that Sokazo achieves his goal of electrifying his surfaces.  After all these years, the energy of light and colour is still to be harnessed to a canvas.

 

 

Barry Dumka

currator and gallery owner

Snap contemporary Art Gallery

Vancouver