South America Trip Story 2017

Travelling watercolour artist Moish Sokal has returned from his search for his mentor artist Benito, he lost track of in South America over 34 years ago.

He brings back a new and exciting collection of work from this and his earlier trip to Scotland for his exhibition 'High Adventure' at the Malthouse Gallery, East Lambrook Manor Gardens which opens on June 6th.

On this much dreamed-of trip my first port of call was legendary Cusco, the undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas high in the Andes, where I met local watercolour artist Benito on his previous visit 34 years ago. Together then, we would set off with their paint and paper, to paint a new location each day on site.

Until then, I was painting like a graphic designer…Benito showed me the magic painting in this medium really gives! Blue shadows, white paper for sunlight; it all looked so simple when you watched him paint. He started my real love of watercolours.

I found the magic of Cusco arresting, rediscovering every street corner, every quirky Incan wall, Spanish tiled rooftop and cobbled steps, so very paintable when seen through a painter’s eye. I couldn’t resist the urge to get out there and paint on location, like I did so many years ago. It was such a refreshing experience, after taking my time painting indoors.

The first breakthrough in the hunt for Benito came when Herberto, a talented local artist who had heard of Benito, assured me that he lives a few villages away, I embarked on an old bus which moaned and groaned as it wound its way along the mountain road, stopping frequently in the many villages on the way to Benito’s village. However, two hours into the journey the bus was stopped at a police road block, and all were ordered to leave the bus, now condemned as unroadworthy. Undaunted, I sprinted to flag down another bus, determined to find Benito.

At long last I reached my final destination and found the only place serving lunch. I noticed the watercolours hanging on the walls, but they were not Benito’s, and despite asking around no one knew of him. I’d come to a a dead end.

The following weeks passed with me wandering the stunning mountain scenery with its Incan sites, and villages dotted along the Sacred Valley. The Sunday market in Chinchero brought colourful mamitas sporting decorated hats, Ollantaytambo, an Inca village nestled amongst massive mountains, and Pisac, another artisan village, famed for its markets.

In Pisac, there was finally success of a kind in my search. I noted a striking display of watercolour paintings in a small gallery and it turned out that the artist, Ore, knew Benito for many years as they had been students together. However he told me benito had moved to live in Lima and does not paint any more.

It was a big disappointment but I was inspired by Ore’s similar fresh style of painting in watercolours and by painting on location again. I felt compelled seek more new subjects and embarked on a life long dream to paint in the Peruvian Amazon.

I landed in Iquitos, the world largest city unreachable by road. The change was huge - from the cool thin Andean air to a steaming hot jungle, from impressive Incan stone palaces in Cusco to the floating shantytown of Belen.

Rapidly acclimatising, I explored the vast rivers around Iquitos, the jungle communities and the extraordinary wildlife of the area.

The Amazon just starts here and yet it is so wide you can barely see the other side! Everything is big! The trees, the fish, the birds, the snakes, even the butterflies!

The excitement of this high adventure, discovering new subjects to paint in a new fresh style is what this forthcoming exhibition is all about. Alongside these exotic paintings from Peru, I will also show work I painted following my first ever visit to Scotland when I explored the romantic west coast, and also other subjects he discovered whilst exploring England.

'High Adventure' marks a NEW PERIOD in my work and shows to the full my love of bringing the vivid beauty of the world to my paintings. This exhibition, set in the beautiful Grade 1 listed East Lambrook Manor Gardens, opens on June 6th to July 23rd, closed every Monday.

Further details on the artist and this exhibition can be obtained from www.moishsokal.co.uk or on 07812837825