SoHyun Bae: The Nature of Water, 2015-2018
SoHyun Bae’s Nature of Water series celebrates the creative process imbued with an organic structure that thrives in the space between art and life. As an artist who consistently explores new themes and techniques, her work is governed by a visual and conceptual complexity, combined with a clarity of vision that responds to and signifies current expanded parameters of abstraction. She brings together color, structure, balance and shapes with a rigorous attention to composition as well as an awareness of art historical precedents to construct evocative abstract works suffused with expressive brushwork on subtly modulated planes of pure pigment and rice-paper on canvas. There is also value for spontaneity and improvisation in her work that engages the viewer directly and viscerally as ideas are distilled into swirling or meandering marks that heighten their perceptual subtlety.
This series, from 2015 - 2018, is a continuation of the Wrapped Shards series begun by the artist in 2002 that draws on aspects of Jewish mystical thought and belief system as well as references to Korean feminine identity. They also reflect the influence of her teacher and mentor, the Romanian-born Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel (1928 - 2016), who introduced her to elements of Jewish mysticism. This encounter with the writer, philosopher and humanist had a profound impact on her as a human being and an artist with a conviction in the ability of abstract art to be experienced in emotionally meaningful terms. As stated by the artist in her own words: In the Nature of Water series, I continue to examine the precariousness of life, its fragility and the strength in vulnerability through depicting shards found in our natural world. Despite the fact that her work is never overtly literal, they still manage to tell stories of love and courage, of compassion and resilience that speak to the triumph of the human spirit.
SoHyun Bae is an American painter living and working in New York. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Fine Arts, 2007; The New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, 2002; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc. Grant, 2000; and The National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 1996. She has been a resident artist at: Montalvo Art Center, 2019; The Corporation of Yaddo, 2000; Virginia Center for Creative Arts, 1996; and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, 1993 among others. SoHyun Bae received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, 1990; a Master of Fine Arts from Boston University, 1994; and a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School in 1997 having studied with the Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel. Her works have been exhibited world-wide in galleries and museums including the Asian Art Museum of SF, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, Seoul Arts Center Hangaram Museum, Museo Nacional di Visual Artes in Montevideo, Queens Museum, Sotheby’s, NY and Philips de Pury & Luxembourg. Recently, she has collaborated with Martha Graham Dance Company. She was invited as a guest artist for Graham + Google, 2018 where she drew the dancers in 3D using Google’s latest technology. She was also invited as a guest artist in the first of the Studio Series – Graham Deconstructed: Steps in the Street with SoHyun Bae, 2019.
SoHyun BaeThe Nature of Water series, 2015-2018
The Nature of Water series is a continuation of the Wrapped Shards series which I began in 2002. Wrapped Shards series is inspired by the Jewish Mystical understanding of why we have suffering in this world. It is an exploration of tzimtzum, the “Mystery of the Breaking of the Vessels.” The Jewish Mystics believe in a cataclysmic shattering of the vessels whereupon the Divine Presence of God (sometimes referred to the Female Presence of God) was shunned into exile. They believe that as long as the God Head remains separated, there would be suffering on earth and that it is up to every individual to attempt to restore these vessels. I depict shards as they better reflect our world. The painted shards are poetically “wrapped” referring to the practice of common women of the Joseon Era who gathered up bits and pieces of existing cloths to create patchworks (bojagi) large enough to wrap things. The idea of “wrapping,” in this sense, introduces a feminine quality, specifically Korean, to the Jewish vision of the shattered world.
In the Nature of Water series, I continue to examine the precariousness of life, its fragility and the strength in vulnerability through depicting shards found in our natural world. Both series reflect the influence of Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate and my mentor, who introduced me to Jewish mystical thought and had a profound impact on me as a human being and artist.
*I dedicated I Penitenti, 2015 to Elie Wiesel who passed away on July 2, 2016.