believe an artist is a product of their environment,” says painter Magnus Sodamin of his vivid, botanical artwork, which is heavily influenced by his Miami surroundings. “I’ve been going to the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens since high school, and to me it is the epitome of South Florida: a lush but curated garden filled with native and non-native plants,” says Sodamin who turned to the space as inspiration for a recent exhibit.
In its own way, Sodamin’s art–acrylic and oil works that blur the line between abstraction and landscape painting–aims to embrace and preserve Miami’s tropical panoramas. “While change is inevitable, I like to think of my paintings as testaments to South Florida’s natural settings that in the future may not be present,” says the artist. His creative process is spurred through selfexploration or by a photo snapped during one of his travel expeditions in the region–day trips to the Everglades, fishing excursions or camping in the Ten Thousand Islands. The artist begins by painting the walls and floors of an exhibition space or studio with vibrant splashes of color, then introduces a canvas, making it a completely immersive experience. Playing with the natural light from the original images lends a sense of place and purpose revealing colors and shadows. “When light pours onto leaves and branches in nature, both the illumination and dark shadows represent a pattern of chaos,” he says. Using paint, it is an ephemeral moment frozen in time.
Despite Sodamin’s tropical leanings, his artistic background isn’t all rooted in Miami. The artist, who was born in Manhattan and raised in Darien, Connecticut, and moved to Miami at age 12, credits his Norwegian grandmother–a talented painter–for unlocking his creative side. During summer visits to Norway, she would place a canvas in front of him encouraging him to paint. By the time he graduated from high school, Sodamin knew the immediacy of painting, and decided to spend a year studying art at The Nansen Academy in Lillehammer, Norway. “Over the winter during art school my paintings were very dark,” he laughs, “and when I got home to Miami my work exploded into color.”
Preferring the vibrancy of South Florida, Sodamin set up his studio in Miami’s Design District, where, presently, he favors painting on unprimed canvases using acrylic and oil paints to translate his loose version of nature–never knowing at the start what the final painting will expose. “I believe the act of creating on the canvas wields its own power and usually takes the artwork further than the source of inspiration or starting point,” he says.
Most recently, Sodamin created a video installation of his experience in the Everglades titled It Feels Like I’m Always Going Backwards. The split-screen production juxtaposes downtown Miami with the wilderness only two hours away. Parallel to his art, Sodamin’s objective is to carry his viewers into an environment that will perhaps change drastically in the coming years. “We live in such a time that we need to act, not just talk,” says Sodamin. “I hope my work brings awareness to the beauty of nature that surrounds us.”
PHOTOS: SONYA REVELL
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