"As self-portraits these works are concerned not with self-image but with self-embodiment and how painting can materially express the experience of self. Here is the female body, mortal and splendid, but tenanted - occupied rather than objectified. As nudes these images resist the female objectification inscribed in Western tradition by asserting mutability and the freedom that comes with this. Drawing on techniques used in traditional oriental landscape painting, Seung Ah creates multiple or ‘floating’ perspectives, which deflect the single ‘authoritative’ viewpoint.” - Emma Brooker 14/12/12
In 2013 painter Seung Ah Paik created a series of works for Art Athina in Greece and it was only there that they have ever been shown. Now, for the first time, the series will be exhibited in London, together with other previously unseen paintings from the same period on loan from the private collections of Dr. Violeta Marmon, I. Lubomirov, and Mr & Ms P Carter Robinson.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is the eponimously titled 'Autolandscape II', consisting of two large unstretched pieces of calico, draped loosely along a wall and spilling over onto the floor in the artist's signature style. Spread over the two pieces is a looming polymorphous nude. 'Autolandscape II' develops a figurative painting style, which emerged in Paik's MFA work at Goldsmiths between 2010 and 2012, before she created the first 'Autolandscape' in 2012-2013. 'Autolandscape' was later the centrepiece in the artist's first West End exhibition at Hus Gallery in 2014, then later, along with another of her large works, it was acquired for Saatchi Gallery's 2016 exhibition 'Champagne Life'. Meanwhile 'Autolandscape II' remained largely unseen until now.
Unusually, this exhibition also features a number of small works which Seung Ah Paik created alongside 'Autolandscape II'. When seen together, these paintings constitute a fragmented total of similar scale, but entirely different feel. Like its larger counterpart these fragments are collectively a form of self-portrait; a view of the body's surface from within the artist's own restless, roaming gaze. But while 'Autolandsacape II' is an enveloping, immersive, super-perspective of the artist's body, the smaller works are a scattering of glimpses, as if seen in the blink of an eye.
They are not deliberate, they wonder freely over the skin of the artist, haphazardly catching a heel at the edge of vision, or a hand, but not lingering, not framing. In addition to these works, the exhibition features a small commission created for the Mr & Ms P Carter Robinson Collection, as well as two series of miniature unique multiples, all made later in 2013.
While the other small works are best seen as a body, the Robinson commission stands alone. It distills into a small space a number of details such as the fingers, toes, heels or nipples, which in Paik's large works so compellingly counterpoint the vast expanses of skin that dominate them. In this work, more than any other of the small works, she is able to convey a contrast between the bulk of the body and the exquisiteness of its extremities, without literal recourse to scale, but with the same sense of the immensity of one's own body. The smallest of all the works on show, the two sets of multiples are completely divested of scale. Both sets are stretched on the same diminutive square frames. The first three (of four originally made) each isolate an identical cracked nipple, upturned like a haystack in a landscape. They were made at the same time and for the same exhibition as 'Autolandscape II'. However, they were later exhibited again and the set was broken up. The second series of ten was the last Paik created in 2013. Made for Christie's Multiplied Art Fair, they play with the concept of the unique multiple - each square is a portrait of one of the artist's fingers. Shown in a vertical grid together with the repeated image of the artist's nipple, they are at the opposite end of scale and composition employed in 'Autolandscape II', yet they too express some of the same sense of the artist's perspective and concern with her body's surfaces.
Seung Ah Paik was born in Seoul, Korea in 1979. She lives and works in Philadelphia, USA. She studied Oriental Painting at Seoul National University (2003), followed by Fashion Design at Central Saint Martin’s (2006), before returning to painting for her MFA Fine Art in Goldsmiths (2013). Her work has been shown internationally, including solo shows at Hus Gallery, London, UK, 2014; Jubilee Gallery, Nagoya, Japan 2013; Lubomirov-Easton, London, UK, 2013; and Noam Gallery, Seoul, Korea, 2009. Her work has also been in a number of group shows and is in held in private collections around the world.