June 3, 2014

Unhurried Antinomies – the work of Alkemikal Soshu

The Matador oil on canvas 30 x 59.5 in. 2012

Alkemikal Soshu speaks of reconciling opposites, and not just opposites but antinomies, of fundamentally irreconcilable things. His paintings are accretions of such things, compacted strata of the difficult and unwieldy, all splayed out.

Alkemikal Soshu's profile on this website
Alkemikal Soshu – Inventory and Prices

The Benign Snotty and the Discovery of the God Particle
oil on canvas 23.75 x 35.75 in. 2012

The paintings remind me of the great Alfred Jensen, who is very well regarded in Brooklyn, for his joinder of non-objective painting and conceptual art, of color and the occult, and for certain mapping tendencies. Soshu’s work reminds me of that oblique tunneling that took place in Brooklyn more than three decades ago. The handful of painters in Greenpoint at that time were influenced by such as Jensen, and also by their socratic mentor James Harrison. It was a moment of esoteric abstraction, during the avalanche of postmodern imagery. These were the origins of Brooklyn’s myriad world of painting today. And it just seems right that a painter of Soshu’s temperament should choose Brooklyn as his frame of reference. Or rather, in the case of Soshu, as a substrate to be catalyzed.

Pipe Mandala pencil and ink on paper 30 x 22 in. 2012

Soshu lives in Kathmandu, he has never been to the US or much outside the subcontinent so far as I know. His entrance upon the Bushwick and Williamsburg scene has been brazen, obstinate, opinionated, and entirely by way of facebook. Yet an entrance it most certainly has been, and I am strongly of the opinion that Soshu’s is a bracing contribution precisely to the art scene that he has chosen to engage and to which he was drawn from afar.

His early work of more than about five years ago was inflected by what he calls the “low brow” movement, a kind of international brew of comic, decorative, and graphic art. With surprising speed, and in relative isolation, he put together a fighting palette. The shrewdness of this maneuver impressed me. Irony and panache were achieved that take many a New York artist a decade to achieve. This is thinly veiled by the Himalayan flavor of the paintings, and even that is a conceit. a conceit, no less, that confers mordant humor and originality to Soshu’s canvases.

Hermaphroditos Salmacis oil on canvas 26 x 26 in. 2012

Hermaphroditos Salmacis involves the Greek myth of the nymph Salmacis, who raped Hermaphroditos, the beautiful son of Hermes and Aphrodite. The “union” transformed Hermaphroditos into an androgynous being from whom the word hermaphrodite derives. Writes Soshu:
The mystical derivation would be the belief in holistic transcendence by a union of opposing energies. A completeness and synthesis of opposites. Aphrodite is associated with beauty, Hermes with literature and poetry. Hermaphroditos is the outcome of both, but in male spirit. I think Salmacis is the integration of the female in the symbolism.

Venom oil on canvas 30 x 30 in. 2013

Soshu’s canvases are densely coded, and there are high-pressure zones that gather around matters that need to be “sorted out” as Soshu is fond of saying in the clipped Britishism of the region. This kind of deliberation over a painting is a delight and a relief to me. There is an unhurried generosity here that is appreciated.

— Ethan Pettit, May 2014

Dragon Naga pencil and ink on paper 30 x 22 in. 2011

Library of Babel ink on paper 30 x 22 in. 2011