There-Not-There

_Christine Lai

The childhood game of ‘connect the dots’ often puts one in mind of shifting cloud shapes that form fantastical objects out of the ether, things that are constructed just as suddenly as they are ‘unbuilt’, to use Shelley’s phrase. The connecting of the dots, the drawing of lines and the moulding of nebular shapes all rest upon the imagination’s ability to fill the void – and we are here called upon to exercise that imaginative faculty. Eunkyung’s delicate pictures evoke the quality of clouds, shifting, vaporous and half-visible, those evanescent forms dissolving into the transitory lucidity of glass. These forms lead us to ask what is amiss, and what is repeatedly asserting its presence. Like cloud shapes, there is a certain unreality here to the partially dissolving objects, simultaneously nothing and a thousand things, disappearing even as they emerge.

As I walk around the studio looking at these paintings, I imagine myself to be resting on a windswept barley field, gazing at the clouds. But soon the cloud-gazer would drift into sleep and dream of being wafted on a sea of green. For if air is the first element that informs these paintings, then water is surely the second. Water, like clouds, shifts and is gone, just as the organic matter, the floral and vegetative clippings, bloom and die – which perhaps speaks more to the French phrase for still life, nature morte. As blossoms wither and fruits fester, the glass remains seemingly unchanging, a thing of strength and clarity. But glass, in spite of its static, solid exterior, in fact has the molecular structure of fluids, with a disordered arrangement and not an orderly, crystalline structure. Glass is therefore frozen, brittle liquid, always on the verge of dispersal and evaporation, as fleeting as the organic matter it contains, flowing into the white canvas-sky against which everything is set.

Through these dissolving glass shapes, Eunkyung has created an aesthetics of transience.

But art here is not so much about what dies, what remains still, as it is about what remains, for the flip side of disappearance is emergence. The colours are what endure in these paintings, these rich plums, burgundy and reds, the pastel blues and pinks, and delicate lime greens. The colours seem to render glass no longer static, but translucent, iridescent. The cloud-gazer sees here a vision in glass and colours.

The glass creates a conceptual space. Perhaps there is a certain degree of unreality to the objects that exist in this space, poised between 2D and 3D, in transition between the two, as if in a state of emergence, of potentiality rather than absence. This is less about still life as it is about what is not still. Just as colours exceed the translucent bounds of the glass, so does art seek to transcend its own limits. I see here the coming-into-being of colours, a struggle into being, and a struggle with nature, with death. These pictures are, for me, a reminder to see through things, to see brightly, clearly, through the intermediary layer that separates the seer and the seen. How fitting that cold glass, like art, should be fused in heat, by human hands, moulded by human breath, the pneuma, simultaneously transient and enduring as the matter it creates.