Eugene Seong: Eternal Spirits and Timeless Landscapes
by Jeanne Brasile
Just north of New York City, in the New Jersey suburb of Tenafly, Gallery Yonhee has been luring visitors across the river — including a coterie of notable curators, critics, artists, and collectors. The gallery’s strong roster of exhibitions is adroitly curated by Paris Koh, Exhibitions Director and Curator with a decided preference for works on paper, especially those addressing spiritual and natural themes. Under her leadership, the venue is building a solid reputation, and Koh’s latest exhibit, Eugene Seong’s solo effort Longevity is yet another compelling show.
Eugene Seong’s mixed-media works take traditional Korean religious symbology, Ship-Jang-Saeng, as a source of inspiration. These 10 symbols of a long and healthy life are ubiquitous in daily living and originated in folk art traditions, design and architecture — reflecting harmony and a spiritual connection to the natural world. The centerpiece of the show The ten symbols of longevity No 4–6 (2019) dominates the gallery with its scale, bright colors and whirling, shimmering surface. The vertically oriented triptych is draped at each tier and appears like an outsized Roman shade. There is no particular entry point into this piece which is roiling with motifs of the everlasting. The viewer can dive in at any point and let their eyes wander throughout. As your focus adjusts, you begin to see forms of deer dissolve into leafy, fecund peach trees whose golden antlers terminate into thick foliage laden with ripe, colossal fruit. Cranes emerge from clouds and dense clusters of flowers. A turtle swims through what could be either sky or water, while upon his back rises a series of majestic mountain peaks under the light of just one of many painted moons. In the center panel, dual imagery shows a woman in profile whose face simultaneously reads as both visage and mountain range, while her hair dissolves into a crashing waterfall.
The painting is enhanced by the thick lines of relief Seong constructs by repeated applications of paint applied with a brush. The artist described her painstaking process to achieve this effect with layers of translucent gelled paint with rounded contours. Though she could take short cuts, it is this attention to detail and perhaps a meditative approach that makes the work stronger…