Positive Negative Gallery
March 21–April 5, 2014
In her first solo exhibition in Vancouver, Things Which Can Be Seen Only If You Should Stop, Mira Song presents a series of new paintings depicting environments that walk the line between designed and natural, real and fantasized. Taking the landscape of an urban garden as her starting point – a constructed space built to sustain natural life – Song combines architectural elements of landscape design with fragmented memories of place to create surreal scenes that are both playful and isolating.
The largest of the nine paintings in the exhibition, Viewing Platform (2013), presents the blueprint of an urban garden as if illustrated by an architectural drafter. Once surveyed, the uneven ground, fractured elements and disorienting scale reveal it to be an unfeasible prototype. Closer inspection of elements of the overall design of this painting make up the remaining eight works, all from 2014. In the smaller works, signs of human inhabitants are just barely apparent. A tiny bench in Scene #4 suggests how one might fit into this world, and its diminutive size allows us to feel the weight of the world around it. Slippery rolling hills and melting scenery are reminiscent of recalling a dream the morning after; elements are omitted or forgotten and the memory overall is fleeting.
Memory is referenced in much of Song’s work. As a child, Song fantasized fictional worlds within everyday objects – a bonsai tree or the belly of a teapot could become the landscape within which she could escape. Her work is infused with these memories, instilling her imagined scenes with a sense of the familiar.
Having recently moved to Vancouver from Seoul, Song’s practice addresses her experience of making sense of a place she feels only partially engaged in. To this end, she presents isolating environments of unsettling scale. Although in Viewing Platform we can almost envision a walk through the park, our size quickly diminishes as we become overwhelmed by the towering elements in the subsequent scenes. If the expansive Viewing Platform reads as a blueprint, Scenes 1-8, in spite of their size, engulf the viewer in Song’s world.
Not surprisingly, Song gravitates to the work of other young painters whose practices embrace the experience of making sense of a foreign place and the isolation that can accompany it. The dreamlike, fantasized environments of London-based Korean artist Jung Yeon Min share an affinity with Song’s work, for example, balancing architectural elements with the surreal. Song strikes this balance, but the focus is on what has been extracted from each scene. The results are landscapes that speak the language of an outsider, while emphasizing the degree to which we are affected by the architecture of the spaces we inhabit.