Eugina Song: What You See Is What You Want To See
September 10 – October 10, 2021
Reception: September 10, 6 – 8 PM
The work of Eugina Song celebrates the visual language of abstraction and the complexity of painting materials. Viewers can revel in the smallest textures of surfaces up close to encounter the delight of the picture plane defamiliarized by the act of cementing the canvas. Art historical precedence of American and Korean minimalists is evident in Song’s precise monochromes, but these references alone do not encapsulate the nuance and significance of the work. Through the meditative finesse of Song’s painterly gestures, the work immerses us in her process in a way that pervades the room beyond the confines of the canvas. Influences from the prominent figures of the art-historical lexicon are seen throughout her oeuvre, and they allow us to reflect on the diversity of her own itinerate background.
Emphasis on the work’s own durational formation remains visible in a way that might promote the idea that the project is self-contained. There are no obvious symbols or references that would relate the work to objects outside the gallery walls. Beyond the focus on the materiality of each element, a number of relevant questions about the value of abstraction and the gravity of artistic endeavors as a whole emerge through the calculated processes of this practice. Rather than relying on symbolic acts of communication, these tactics implore the recipient to take notice of simple details, rethink the potential effects that the creative process might have on everyday life, and follow a range of conclusions that might have remained otherwise veiled by assumption. Just as Frank Stella’s 1959 Black Paintings and his dictum, “What you see is what you see,” emphasized the optical action of looking at the practices of the everyday, Song explores the city in terms of its materiality. Cement is what cities are made of and yet it is nearly always overlooked. Cement is most often beholden to the form-to-function equation, but nothing in Song’s work is aimed at efficiency, and instead attempts to radically decouple form from function and deconstruct the conventional form of painting as representational. Whether in the case of the seemingly melting wall or the traditional pencil shadings escaping the canvas, the breaking down of the familiar picture plane found in Western oil paintings and the overwhelming emphasis on painting as a physical object mark Song’s work as both canonical and transformative. The sensitive, often quiet, products of Song’s process unearth mysterious qualities of materials that often go unseen. Song’s work upsets traditional associations about the dynamic between artist and material.
Each viewer will have to decide the value of this gesture and what it means for the importance that art plays in its relationship to the rest of the world. The gravity of Song’s work doesn’t rely necessarily on the grandiosity of her subtle markings, but rather on the multitudes that spill out from piercing the threshold of the picture plane or the stretching of painterly materials beyond their perceived limitations. Song’s work employs the power of noticing, and while questions will always remain about the impact that art can have on everyday life, this work does not relinquish the potential of these inquiries or concede to the temptation to serve as mere decoration.
Eugina Song was born in London and raised in Seoul. She received a BFA from Cornell University and an MFA from Hunter College where she teaches Studio Art as an Adjunct Professor of Painting. Hyacinth Gallery is pleased to present her work as its inaugural exhibition.