23.03.17- Belenius – Multiple Artists

Belenius Gallery – Rachel Youn, Justin Youn, Sahana Ramakrishnan, Sally J. Han, Nam Kim, Caroline Wong, Ming Wang – You were bigger than the sky, you were more than just a short time – March 16 to April 15, 2023 – Ulrikagatan 13 – Open Thursday-Friday 12-18, Saturday 12-16, or by appointment.

ABOUT the artists

Working across sculpture and installation, Rachel Youn sources materials with a history of aspiration and failure through online secondhand shopping. Venturing into the suburbs, Youn rescues electric massagers from “suburban limbo”, fastening artificial plants to the machines to create kinetic sculptures that are clumsy, erotic, and absurd. Their work identifies with the replica that earnestly desires to be real, and the failed object that simulates care and intimacy.

Rachel Youn received their BFA from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. They are a current MFA candidate in Sculpture at Yale University. Solo shows include No Pain No Gain, Sargent’s Daughters, New York, US (2022) and Revival, Soy Capitán, Berlin, DE (2022).

Justin Yoon is a Brooklyn based painter who was born in Los Angeles and grew up both in LA and Bundang, South Korea. Early childhood memories of American junk food, late night old Hollywood movies on the TV, and listening to jazz in the car with his family on long drives significantly affected him to create a world of romantic melancholia, synthetic colors, and casual lostness of being. With no specific emotions provoked, the group of characters reoccur over and over in a deeply synthetic yet ambiguous dream-like landscape, continuing on this never ending “Highschool Reunion”. The three recurring characters represent a certain glamorous queer Asian idolatry as well; By glamorizing such figures in a hyper masculine and feminine visual, they become a symbol of sensual intimacy within oneselves, especially as Asian queer characters. Recent solo shows include Night on the Town, Mindy Solomon, Miami, US (2022) and Lunch at Sunset, Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles, US (2022).

In her practice, Sahana Ramakrishnan, born in Mumbai, India and raised in Singapore, explore the concept of non-duality, central to Hinduism and Buddhism. The Western-European tradition––with its emphasis on the distinction between the subject and the object, between the rational mind and the examined world––has led, inevitably, to the fracturing of the social fabric and the wealth gap that accompanies unchecked individualism. From this standpoint, Ramakrishnan uses her paintings to contemplate death, identity, and the consumption and killing of “other” sentient beings. Recent group exhibitions include Wonder Women, curated by Kathy Huang, Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, NY, US (2022) and Fabula Rasa, Fridman Gallery, NY, US (2022).

Sally J. Han, born in China and raised in South Korea, moved to New York where she received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts (2016) with a Silas H. Rhodes Scholarship. In 2019 she received an MFA with an emphasis on drawing at the New York Academy of Art. Her first solo exhibition in New York was at Fortnight Institute in January 2020. She has participated in selected group exhibitions at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, NY, US (2022), and Dark Light: Realism in the Age of Post-Truths, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Aïshti Foundation, Beirut, LBN (2022). Sally J. Han’s work is in the collections of the Aïshti Foundation in Beirut and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami.

Nam Kim is an American-born Korean artist currently studying and working in Vienna, Austria. After studying Fine Art (painting) and Art History in Seoul, South Korea, she started her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna where she graduated with a MFA. She is represented by Nicolas Krupp in Basel.

Caroline Wong’s work is enmeshed in herself, in the loudness and warmth of femme and queer culture. Her work is concerned with the corporeal, a study and celebration of female desire. Referencing and dismantling traditional Asian woman gender roles, Wong paints her women flush with life and passion, full with joy and greed, replete with feeling. Themes around femininity, queerness, anxiety, and the right to female pleasure, pervade her large-scale pastel drawings. Her mission is to fill that void, to feel no guilt or shame for taking what one needs and wants.

Wong graduated with an MA in Fine Art from City and Guilds of London Art School in 2021. She also obtained a Diploma in Contemporary Portraiture from The Art Academy in 2018. Selected solo exhibitions include Artificial Paradises, Soho Revue, London, UK (2022) and Cats and Girls, Soy Capitán, Berlin, DE (2022).

The work of Chinese-born Ming Wang, based in NYC, combines different imagistic rules and visual languages to create new dimensions, which are almost always located in a “wonder-world.” These reflect reality – from personal experiences, to events happening in our surroundings. In her painting series “Journey to the West,” she depicts a Barbie doll that resembles her, wandering in a stereotypical American landscape. Global pop cultural symbols constantly appear in her work. “I am all too familiar with these symbols—My Little Pony, Barbie, and Western cowboys, yet they also betray my sense of alienation”, she says. The title comes from a classic Chinese fictional novel of the same name. Ming Wang is an MFA ’23 candidate of Columbia University.

ABOUT the exhibition

“Sometimes you have to see it, to be it”. These words by the British curator Karen Alexander have stuck and resonated with me ever since she said them on stage as a panelist in a talk in Stockholm that I once organized. The gist of the words, which might be harder to relate to if you are used to seeing the spitting image of yourself in every domain of society, is that to believe that your pursuit for a position can be successful you need to see a member of your “community” in that very place already before you, to inspire the thought. It’s film award season as this text is being written and I’m reading interviews with the Vietnamese American actor Ke Hey Quan who struck success as a child in Steven Spielberg’s iconic Indiana Jones franchise, only later to just

wait in his teens for the phone to call but to no avail. No roles. Michelle Yeoh, too in the award race, offers similar accounts of exclusion, mentioning how much things changed only recently. Once they do, it’s easy to forget how much but it’s been no different in art.

Cyclical as things are in this art world, I remember a very recent time when abstract painters, mostly white men, were all the rage, and galleries appeared to look for a Dash Snow type of figure for their roster. Along those lines, in a recent interview for our C-print magazine, the fast-rising painter Skyler Chen was remembering how figurative painting was still rejected by the art world as he was starting out. Figurative painting, as any major art fair or survey of blue-chip art galleries will have you know now, has been having such a resurgence since the second part of the 2010’s but this time also significantly and visibly paving way for non-white and diasporic painters on a grander scale. This has been rebutting the historical dominance of the “whiteness” in figurative painting and impacts which bodies we are now seeing in very mundane scenes or
situations of romance, lust, camaraderie, and reverie or coming of age in painting. The series we are exhibiting by the youngest artist in the exhibition, Ming Wang (Journey to the West) is symptomatic for the endearing humour and altogether air of fun we are hoping for with this exhibition. In the series that reek of Wild Wild West she gives the quintessentially Western and pop cultural Americana character of Barbie an update to have features closer to her own, having been impressionable to her growing up in China and the skewed condition at hand back then of Made in China, (also) for China but not with China.

A note about the exhibition title; it’s a line from the recent Taylor Swift album and humorously here says something about the persisting momentum of figurative painting and the notion of claiming space. In our 10 th anniversary year with C-print it connects back also to the title of our first curated exhibition; Yesterday We Wanted to be the Sky. We came into art entirely from the outside, built a name and a chair and added it to the table, with no intentions of leaving. And I suppose by now, by being here, we’ve been a contributing factor to the face of our local art scene gradually changing.

Ashik Zaman

ABOUT the gallery

Established in 2006, Belenius is a gallery for contemporary art in Stockholm, Sweden. The gallery represents emerging to established artists, with an intergenerational focus. https://belenius.com/

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