Jeff Soto’s imaginary world of magic, monsters and daydreams seem to exist in a different time and place, yet they allude to our real world. For his upcoming exhibition at KP Projects/MKG, he explores this world after dark with a new series of paintings, “Nightgardens.” With nighttime as his main concept, his images go to a place where darkness symbolizes the unknown. We caught up with the artist while he was completing his new series, which includes 16 watercolor paintings, 10 acrylic paintings on wood, and a nearby mural of night owls, sponsored by District La Brea. In one new landscape, among Soto’s favorite scenery to paint, he portrays a large moon-like shape in the background with roots and tree bark all over. It is inspired by the “Shattered Giant”, a large, felled Sequoia tree that lies in the Sierra Nevada. He shares, “Aesthetically, I work rather bold I think, the colors and contrast are heightened, and I try to draw the eye around. So in some ways I am working traditionally, altering light and color to make an interesting composition. The paintings are full of things around me that I am interested in- palm trees, cactus in planters, stars, the moon. But there is also always some foreign objects mixed in.”
Soto’s watercolors are particularly special because they are rarely exhibited and highlight the new direction that the artist is going in. “The watercolors were really fun and different for me… With these ones, I was exploring new colors and alternating between working fast and slow. I think the simpler watercolors will support the stories in the larger paintings on wood, and fill in the gaps,” he says. They display the characteristically colorful and surrealistic elements inspired by things in Soto’s life, but with more intense colors and a simplified message. Go behind the scenes of Jeff Soto’s “Nightgardens” below.
Studio visit photos courtesy Jordan Ahern.