Mee Kyoung Shin: Painting Series


HADA Contemporary is delighted to showcase the most recent works from the Translation – Painting Series (2014 – ongoing) by Meekyoung Shin (b. 1967) internationally distinguished for her meticulously crafted soap sculptures.

The works in this exhibition are from the most recent series of work by the artist that challenges the traditional hierarchy of painting by creating sculptures that resemble classical paintings yet compellingly distinctive. Shin replicates antique frames, which are often used to adorn oil painting masterpieces, collected by the artist self. In lieu, these objects ornament the empty canvas filled with faintly tinted soaps as to question the authority the painting has enjoyed for centuries. By replacing oil paintings that are often associated with the value and wealth with affordable, unoriginal and expendable material as the soap, she enquires on the values we endow to an artwork. The absence of the depiction of any recognisable subject matter eliminates any cultural or religious associations behind the works prompting the viewers to withhold their judgement or analysis but question the meaning.

Every object – especially in the case of relics – has their own time and space and Shin has been interested in how such objects’ time and space become altered through geographical transitions. Since 1996, Shin has been exploring extensively on the transformation, translation and reinterpretation of the value and meaning of objects when dislocated from their distinct original cultural and historical contexts. The artist have been casting and carving beautifully scented soap works often replicating and referencing Greek, Roman and Asian canonical sculptures and objects – more recently, broadening her references to archival materials such as images and her own creativity – to engage us to follow their unique trails of contextual metamorphosis. She dexterously toys with the original and the replica equally in the attempt to direct the attention towards the narrative formed via de- and re- contextualisation. Here, the scent of the soap becomes the key strategic ingredient that helps us to distinguish between the original and the replica and the image and the real through sensual experiences fully engaging us to observe the transitional process of interpretations. At the same time, the fragility and temporality of the material in contrast to the solid traditional sculpting materials questions the long-standing authority and status of sculpture in the history of art. Perhaps, the malleability and flexibility suggests the myriad possibilities of interpretations loosening the rigidity of a cultural sphere as well as broadening the realm of sculpting. Her works are like the soul or the spirit worlds of the living and the dead relentlessly destabilising the norm of each worlds as alluded from the Ghost (2007 – ongoing) series. Synchronously, as seen in the Toilet Project (2004 – ongoing) and the Written in Soap: A Plinth Project (2012 – ongoing), the engagement with the public imbues significant socio political dimension from the works and her practice. In A Plinth Project, she recreates the historical monument within different cultural, environmental and socio-political context stirring up vibrant conversation of reinterpretation. Hence, the historical monument once used as the enforcement and justification of the imperialist ideologies during the colonial era turns into the open space of social communication to reveal and discuss what is hidden beneath the layers of politics and ideologies in the contemporary context.

At large, Shin’s works address issues as authenticity, authorship, originality, reproduction and needless to mention de- / re- contextualisation, yet the crucial importance is the impact of these elements to the identity of the original and the replicated objects. Emanating from her personal experiences and observations, her works are the artist’s attempt to generate the dialogue and discussion on our times where there are no longer originals, fixed narratives and interpretation, everything in the state of flux.

Date: 5 FEBRUARY – 29 MARCH 2015

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