Sowat is a French-American artist based in Paris. His long and close collaboration with Lek has always nourished his personal approach: great travellers, actors of in situ interventions and spectacular works in public space, they draw from the itineraries of the duo Lek & Sowat an experience of the sensitive which enriches their individual paths. After a year at the Villa Médicis (2015-2016), they return to Paris in residence at the Cité internationale des arts. It is in his studio on the Montmartre side that Sowat has been able to benefit from this particular time that is the artist's residency, away from the eyes that you meet or that scrutinize you in the public space, a time of research, of suspension of the daily life, and of experimentation, where he deepens his calligraphy tests on canvas and paper.


In his studio, Sowat thus approaches certain aspects of his approach more intimately, while exploring calligraffiti, which is at the heart of his pictorial practice. To do this, he uses materials generally considered to belong to antinomic worlds (that of graffiti and that of fine art): Sowat is a ferryman and his work is a bridge between these two worlds.


The time in the studio, a retreat from the world, allowed Sowat to refine his artistic gesture. His works bear witness to a multiform language, which is first and foremost a matter of quotation: the tag technique dear to Sowat serves the forms, volutes, twists, spots and lines of writing that are directly inspired by various calligraphic aesthetics that are very much in evidence in the urban space: Cholo writing in Los Angeles (where half of the artist's family lives), Latin inscriptions in the stone and marble of Roman buildings, Arabic calligraphy observed in Morocco or the United Arab Emirates rediscovered during an intervention in Tel Aviv, or Chinese ideograms looked at closely during a stay in Hong Kong. Sowat first inscribes his practice of painted writing in global references, some of which are references to the great millennial history or the micro-history of world cities (such as Los Angeles), drawn from his numerous travels, which he will then appropriate.


Sowat's paintings are so many declensions of a new alphabet forming sentences that are transmuted. His work is thus first and foremost a celebration of the sign, resulting in an organised effervescence, desired by the artist transformed into a demiurge alchemist, who plays with his own technical mastery: by applying water and other "fluids" to the paint and to his artistic gesture, which will react together and cause the motifs on the canvas to evolve, he thus allows the natural part of things to modify and transform the phrasing of his paintings.


The iridescent power of these works allows us to glimpse, from a distance, torrential rains, deep chamarré forests, trembling swarms, or, when we get closer, texts and forms of writing, covered in camouflage finery, which allow us to retrace and return to the origin of the work, as close as possible to the artist's gesture.



Bénédicte ALLIOT

Director General of the Cité internationale des arts

Preface to the Sowat exhibition catalogue "La mécanique des fluides"