Aesthetics of Affinity


“I believe the world is maintained in the state of correlations.” This is the kernel of SUENA’s view of art. This means things and phenomena that seem freestanding are elementally in a correlated structure. The primary subjects of SUENA’s work are figures. As a child she has been troubling over what the most important thing is to her and how to express it. As a result, she concluded that what is most valuable is to perceive the ‘significance of her existence.’ SUENA has considered her self-portrait most cherished and ideal and more dignified than any other object. Of course, she also addressed other subjects but they were only to connect with her primary subject. Her work Self-portrait has always been a representation of her inner concern added to external elements. For many years she has been fascinated by her inner world while painting Self-portrait. One day by chance she discovered others in her self-portrait. She looked back on relations with those who surrounded her and realized she was connected to them. Through her self-portrait SUENA sought after a community, going beyond her domain as an artist. She thought she could be that man and that man included her own appearance in the community. Since then she began regarding people as interesting objects.


SUENA sees artistic expressions including love of mankind as a supreme virtue. She believes even those whom she has never met are interconnected with her in some way. She regards events that take place in relations with others as phenomena associated with her, which forms the structure of an individual’s life. Taking a closer look at her figure paintings, the models of her works are in a café, on a theatrical stage, or on the street. To be precise, the models are those whom she has met in places she has visited. She feels obviously different from them. As her attitude toward them, whoever they are, is her attitude toward herself, she tries to understand their situations and inner worlds through art.


The gaze of a model is centered above or confronts that of the viewer’s line of sight. Her adoption of this visual angle makes the model look dynamic in a still scene. The model’s gesture to speak to us makes us feel some sort of dramatic affinity. The model wants to talk about himself or stay together with the viewers. Trying to speak about something in common is another expression of being associated with one another.


When facing someone at a short distance, SUENA first pays attention to his or her philtrum. We usually first look at someone’s eyes or nose, but the artist focuses on the philtrum which she is particularly interested in. Extending from the nose to the upper lip, the philtrum is not a very conspicuous part of the body but it is treated more importantly than any other part as the artist uses it to try to understand others. SUENA takes note of the muscles involved in moving the lips, instantly reading one’s inner state. This is a way of getting to know someone and is the reason why she has constantly focused on painting the philtrums of models.


Hands and feet in full-length portraits are often lost in the background. This depiction is a way of demonstrating large gestures. If she intends to convey some sort of sensation as a whole, she has to exclude detailed elements. She may be confined or trapped in form. She spreads the space of her scene by allowing hands and feet to be free and underscores the features of a present situation by taking notice of a figure’s movements. She also creates a sense of unity between the figure and space by maximizing the process of deconstructing the forms of typical figures. Her figures visibly resemble mimes. There gestures are not fixed but generally represent their words. Examples include Man Sitting in the Aisle, Man in Orange, and Man Sitting and Talking Using Hand Gestures in which figures are all in dynamic postures. She even depicts joints and fine wrinkles when necessary to express hand gestures. SUENA prefers gestures to facial expressions to express what she intends to represent because she considers gestures as a candid manifestation of objects.


Many traces of drawings are left in SUENA’s works. Lines drawn with Conté or pencils appear vivid as if the coloring remains incomplete. In some cases she draws again after coloring. Coloring does not merely mean applying colors. It is just a way of expression that is necessary for freestanding subjects and common factors. Adding and removing colors can be determined by the reason of connectivity. Drawing also functions as a linking structure. Her figures are in diverse poses, untrammeled by any form. They are in a vague body structure but seem distinguished from it. This is a repetition of deconstruction and reconstruction where drawing plays a role of bridging the two together. Shoulder lines linked to the face and lines connecting figures to their background become one through a mutual combination with completely different things. When painting, SUENA always keeps a repetition of connection in mind. An identical method is applied to coloring. For example, she implies a separation or connection between two people by applying one color to their arms and legs but complementary colors to their faces. In this case she leaves behind traces of sketches or repeated erasing.


Her coloring is obviously ingenious. Her use of colors is like an extension of drawing. Drawing more properly accounts for her work than applying colors to some parts of it. She was initially infatuated by a way of lightly applying acrylic paints. Unlike oil paints, acrylic paints are suitable for unrestricted brushwork and overlapping paints. When using acrylic paint, painters usually either employ ways of applying colors to hide the ground or apply paints opaquely. However SUENA reveals bubbles and brushstrokes by applying colors thinly. Paintings rendered in such a way look unfamiliar and even ungainly. Traces left by a brush appear quite natural. As it is part of the work process, they do not need to be treated sleekly. Rather, this is a phenomenon that is both natural and idiosyncratic. As the artist notes, as people are associated with each other, a painting has to possess a more complex structure and beauty and ugliness have to be blended within it. She considers that employing any sort of artificial method to make things look better is like a severance of connectivity to objects and phenomena. Although she regards figures as the most invaluable of objects, she talks to still life pictures while painting them. Her attitude to admit the hallmarks of such an object is also applied to coloring. She animates the figures she has invited to the world of her art through her brush movements. Empathy is possible as one departs from a fixed form. This coloring method is the most straightforward way to convey her ideas and emotions.


Another important motif of her works alongside the self-portrait is that of a ship. To the artist, a ship is used for her voyage loaded with her ideals. The personified ship in her painting carries many narratives and is able to convey the utopia she envisioned. The scenes are filled with landscapes of the world she wants to live in. Examples are Train Running on the Sea, The Sun Rising by an Island, Giant Earthworm That Has Turned into an Isle, and Candies on a Tree That are Eaten but Not Reduced.


Imagination is like a spring for the artist because it is the source of her creation. No expression is impossible in painting. The reason why no formality has been made for objects is because she sees the relations of figures as a multidimensional linkage. She does not permit the use of any assumption or idea that everyone may already know. She thus views things people consider insignificant from a different point of view. SUENA’s art represents the nature of mutual relationships and connections in a new manner. A point of contact between reality and imagination is found in her art. SUENA believes in the existence of an invisible string: the nature of connectivity and the force of leading a new phenomenon.



Sokpil Chon

Sokpil Chon
1994 B.F.A, Mokwon University, Daejeon, Korea
1999 M.F.A, China Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing, China
2002 Milal Museum Curator
2005 E-Land Foundation for the Art & Culture Curatorial Office Chief, Art Critic

Sokpil Chon

E-Land Foundation for the Art & Culture Curatorial Office Chief

공평한 것. 그리고 공평하지 않은 것.
누구나를 위한, 그러나 아무나는 아닌
It’s okay. That is just the way it is.
Kuk hee Kim
Seth Martin