SUNG WON YUN: (in)visible traces
November 13, 2021 - January 23, 2022
Opening Reception: November 13, 5-7:30 PM

Helen J Gallery is pleased to present (in)visible traces, New York-based artist Sung Won Yun's debut solo exhibition in Los Angeles.

Over the last twenty years, Yun has developed a unique multidisciplinary practice that dwells on the themes of time, nature, and ontology. Yun carefully observes natural phenomena, such as sprouting seeds and geological formations, noticing their subtle change and growth: traces from the passage of time. These traces consistently inform Yun’s practice, inspiring the abstract shapes in her paintings and drawings, and the distinct moments in nature captured through her photographs.

In her paintings and drawings, Yun takes inspiration from the various stages of plant growth. From the sprouting of a seed, development of roots, to the flourishing of stems and leaves, a plant's growth illustrates how subtle, individual changes can accumulate into a full lifeform. Yun’s investment in this organic process is reflected in the seed-like circular forms that appear throughout her paintings and drawings. Acknowledging this similitude, Yun sprays water after painting these "seeds," as if nursing them. The result is the blossoming of colors, spreading and blending amongst each other. For Yun, each of these seeds functions as containers that hold the vital, emergent quality of life, as well as her emotion at the moment of their conception.

Some of these seeds extend into each other to form more elaborate shapes. The resulting clusters are reminiscent of natural forms such as flowers, rhizomes, archipelago, and even galaxies—evoking different senses of scale simultaneously. These clusters are especially prominent in Yun's drawings. Floating in a foggy, mystic void, they appear as if slowly retreating away from the viewer. This effect is achieved by transposing multiple drawings on transparent paper, which results in a cluster that seems at once both singular and collective. This ambiguous existence corresponds to Yun's ontology that a being is, fundamentally, an amalgamation of multitudes and differences.

Yun's photographs allude to the same idea but draw specific inspiration from Iceland. In 2009 and 2011, the artist visited the country close to the winter solstice, when the period of daylight becomes the shortest. Despite working with limited daytime, Yun captured various geological features unique to the region, such as glaciers, fjords, and permafrosts. Frozen and distant from human activity, these sites perfectly preserved their ancient geological past. This sense of timelessness, or what Yun calls "serenity," is echoed throughout Yun's photographic series. Some landscapes are mirrored on the ocean's surface, enhancing the drawn-out sense of time the geological formation embodies. Some landscapes are obscured by clouds, blurring the boundary between sky and land. Thereby, Yun's landscapes achieve an ethereal quality, transcending mere physicality and becoming almost spiritual in their embrace of eons of geological activity.

Sung Won Yun (b. 1977, Seoul, Korea; lives and works in New York City) received her first MFA from Sungshin Women’s University, Seoul, Korea, and her second from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in affiliation with Tuft University, Boston, MA. She received her BFA from the University of Suwon, Korea. Her solo exhibitions have been held at Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, MA; Narthex Gallery, Saint Peter’s Church, New York, NY; Blank Space Gallery, New York, NY; CUNY LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, NY; Merced College Art Gallery, Merced, CA; The Wilson Chael Gallery, Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, MA; KEPCO Gallery, Seoul, Korea; and Asia and Pacific Trade Center, Osaka, Japan. Yun’s work has been shown internationally at numerous group exhibitions. She was the recipient of PLAYA Residency Fellowship in 2017; Cooper Union Artist Residency in 2015; Traveling Scholarship from the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2012; Helen Wurlitzer Artist Residency Program, New Mexico in 2013; and Terra Sumer Residency, Giverny, France in 2010. She has won several awards including the Yousuf Karsh Prize in Photography in 2010.

Helen J Gallery is a contemporary art gallery based in Los Angeles. Specializing in Asian art and design, the gallery features vibrant programming and exhibitions geared towards embracing Asian culture and the diaspora. Our program aims to promote artists from various geographic locations and diverse backgrounds, foster cross-continental dialogue, and broaden the understanding of Asian culture in the Los Angeles area and beyond.

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