The basic means by which we perceive external objects are through our five senses. We are able to recognize a very simple object or phenomenon with just one sense and define it based on our experience or knowledge. And yet, our multiple senses are involved in grasping more complicated objects and a more complicated process is required to figure out their nature. A complex, at times contrasting, sensuous conflict breaks out in the course of such experience and knowledge. In the case involving just one single sense, we do not want to disturb it as we are mostly familiar with linear perception.
SONG Eunyoung’s work is particularly marked by ironic, foreign elements that are obviously perceived but they coexist in her scenes, delaying any final definition. As she mentioned, her work is realistic and unrealistic, simple and complicated, and is in front and back at the same time. While we discover some stable, gentle images in her works, we are from time to time surprised by the nonlinear experiences brought up by the arrangement of those images. As agnosticism is the view that the nature or substance of things is unknown or unknowable, the artist represents objects she seems to know but does not know actually, or seems to see but has never seen in her own distinctive manner.
If so, what does she try to express (or would not express) through such paintings? SONG says her work features “simultaneity”, quoting French philosopher Merleau-Ponty. That is, everyday scenes in her paintings may be realistic and unrealistic, and in the past, present, and future. Merleau-Ponty evaluates Cezanne’s modeling exploration to be a meaningful endeavor to seek the nature of art. It speaks very highly of Cezanne who tried to develop his own art world in the third sphere trough an exploration of nature, perspective, color, line, and depth, untrammeled by impressionism and classicism. Quoting Merleau-Ponty’s simultaneity, SONG’s scenes are a reflection of her vision. The selection of what is expressed and covered is carried out to pursue harmony and balance and to settle visual inconvenience.
SONG arouses confusion in our perception in compositions in which images in the background violate in part those in the foreground in order to unveil things covered or alienated. She uses the interface between the background and the foreground as a way of incarnating this intention, thereby disturbing our visual experience and logical perception. This method was often adopted by surrealism in the early 20th century. Surrealist works featuring day and night, heavy and light, existent and nonexistent images together rest on the unconscious and subconscious, overturning or sneering at the conscious mind. Of course, this circumstance does not coincide with that of SONG Eunyoung as their pieces were produced around World War I fraught with shock and cruel, inhuman tragedies. If a closer look is taken, a true intent of overturn and mock is not found. Rather, an affectionate eye toward the motifs she has chosen is found in SONG’s works.
SONG’s works are composed to unmask covered or alienated things. The artist seems to or does not seem to hid herself behind the subtle sense Johannes Vermeer, a Dutch painter of the 17th century brought about and has been interested in spaces and things serenely unveiled by the density of light. Rediscovered by Théophile Thoré, a French art critic of the mid-19th century, Vermeer is deemed an artist who better understood the properties of paints than anyone else and was masterful at handling the work of light. These features of Vermeer’s work probably draw SONG’s attention.
The collision of senses in SONG’s scenes derive from an attempt to induce the reconsideration of perceptual invariability and the third perception of a common daily space. In terms of descriptive technique, she adopts a sincere and realistic style. By doing this, the space of overlapping, violating images serves as one that asks questions concerning whether the fixed notions forged by our experiences and perceptions are the truth.
In terms of facture, SONG has completed her pieces one by one, spending a lot of time on each. She spends a lot of time looking for subtle nuances of hues. The gently depicted boundaries of things serve to arouse genialness and mildness in lieu of tension and confrontation. Apart from complicated, ambiguous subjects, she has tacked colors minutely in her portrayal of images, highlighting and investing energy in the confrontation and harmony of colors. Guillaume Apollinaire once said, “Pure painting is not a representation but a harmony.” Apollinaire comes to my mind for a while, feeling the pleasure of finding contrast and harmony along with exquisite representation in SONG’s work.