Still Lives Lived
The Paintings of Kevin Sonmor

by Mark Daniel Cohen

There are moments that break into our world, eyeblinks of images that make their ingress from a realm we somehow know but that lies beyond our normal lives - images we recall only in dreams, in reveries, in memories of what we could not possibly remember. In some way, we recognize the feel of that realm - the strange sense of a profound sadness - when we are shown the calligraphy of broken plaster on an aging wall, the heavy folds of falling fabric possessing a richness greater than drapery can encase, or fruit that poses as if by will, as if by whim, for its portrait in still life. We reach back to that deep dolor in painted images seemingly rich with age and the august feel that age is for, images laden with the stature of endurance, heavy with the soft hush of austerity, flush in their suggestiveness with the condensed energy of a living tradition. It is most in art that we recall a place we have no reason to know.

We recall it in such art as the paintings of Kevin 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.

There is a wistful allure to Sonmor's images, a cool fervor and a delicate, irresistible persuasion that looks back toward scenes and tonalities that come to the mind from some imaginary and suffusing past. It is rendered in the acquired manners of French and German Romantic landscape painting, of Northern European still lifes and Vanitas studies, and it is captured in hues and shades of feeling that only so venerable a medium as oil paint could embrace. And in Sonmor's mannerisms and distinctive handling of paint, there is embedded an equation of deep insight: the imagination of the past invokes a probing into the depths of the mind, the feeling of age to the image strikes a delving to the heart of the soul. It is a known formula of art, but a formulation of such power that understanding the equation provides no armor against its potency. When wielded by an artist of true power, we cannot help but be subsumed by the vision and drawn down to a revelation.

It is a revelation of the truth that incurs, the truth that breaks through in moments that blank out the world, moments of clear sight to a life we always live but otherwise never see. It is for artists of the remarkable capabilities of Kevin Sonmor to hold these insights, to catch in the net of their hues and strokes the mystique of that tragic recognition. He sustains the impossible memory of some ancient and beguiling sadness in the dense, pillowing velvet of accomplished technique and inexplicably suggestive imagery, which fume with the thick sensation of some other existence, some other terrain of experience, some other spirit ever active in our lives.


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