Kevin Sonmor pushes the boundaries between the historical conventions of landscape painting and the contemporary aesthetic of the abstracted landscape. An inspired student of Flemish painting, his visions are dark and atmospheric, yet filled with familiar still-life objects. These objects float through Kevin Sonmor’s rich, painterly landscapes, creating powerfully intriguing works that hover between contemporary and historic painting traditions.
Born in Lacombe, Alberta, Kevin Sonmor completed his MFA at Concordia University in Montreal in 1991. Since then, he has exhibited widely across Canada, the US, and more recently, Europe. Sonmor has had solo exhibitions in several public galleries and museums, including University of Waterloo, Mendel Gallery in Saskatoon, Art Gallery of Mississauga and most recently, Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts in Quebec. In the fall of 2014, Sonmor had a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie in Alberta. Sonmor is a recipient of numerous Quebec Council Grants and his work can be found in many private and public collections including the University of Waterloo, Art Gallery of Algoma and Government of Canada.
Sonmor’s iconic work pushes the boundaries between the historical conventions of landscape painting and the contemporary aesthetic of the abstracted landscape. An inspired student of Flemish painting, his visions are dark and atmospheric, yet filled with familiar still-life objects. These objects float through Sonmor’s rich, painterly landscapes, creating powerfully intriguing works that hover between contemporary and historic painting traditions.
In his new series, An Evening Constitutional, Sonmor focuses on large scale, often life sized, paintings of horses. He’s looking at ways to animate the paintings without allowing the paint itself to be the vehicle of animation. By searching for it in the figures themselves and the properties of the subject, whether it be their expressions, gestures, movements or weight, these qualities are asking to be even more conscious of some formal elements of the paintings. Musing on the effort required to construct and maintain a myth, contemporary or otherwise, Sonmor faces competing vested interests and the rapid flow towards cultural homogeneity. His earnest subjects seem intent on living up to their appointed status and expected image.
In the series, Utilitarian, Sonmor muses on the conventions of historical subjects including marine, romantic landscapes and vanitas still-lifes. Sonmor uses these familiar historical practices, though slightly shifting many of their known properties, such as colour or space. The resulting paintings celebrate these historical subjects in today’s culture, capturing the feeling of Northern European still-lifes and Vanitas studies and rendering images in hues and shades of feeling, while still carrying a distinctive contemporary edge.
Mark Daniel Cohen, a New York City-based artist/writer wrote of Sonmor: “…Sonmor paints with the certain craft of a master, with the sure touch of a virtuoso, not for the sake of the pride in technique but for something more imperative: for the efficacy of the art, for the sake of what art is for — the penetration through to a truth of our essential nature that we realize but cannot hold for more than the briefest moment.”
5 Questions with Kevin Sonmor
Can you tell us if and how the pandemic has changed your artistic practice?
Where do you find your inspiration?
What does your perfect day look like?
Do you often paint your own horse(s)?
Tell us something we might not know about yourself