ARTIST STATEMENT STELLA SUJIN
When I was little girl, it was a slaughterhouse next door to my house. Animals carried in a cage were hanging in the backyard after being killed and chopped, which I took a peek at over the fence. It was the moment that I started asking ontological questions on the relationship between body and its master, being.
Platon named body ”soma”, the vessel that contains soul, and he also noted that soul is immortal but the body disappears after death, in which soul leaves its vessel. However, the death of animals I witnessed was too explicit to be called ”disappearance”. Rather, death was right there before my eyes and death meant that I would see the dead cow‘s body parts hung over the backyard having seen alive yesterday.
As I understood, death is the moment that soul and body emerged into one cluster are being separated due to the absence of a binding factor. This ”binding factor”, which is similar to an adhesive, represents individual‘s spirit and identity in terms of soul; on the contrary, regarding body, it represents its physical perspective, namely, labor and reproduction based on respiration, ingestion, excretion, and growth. I believe that this connection between soul and body gets broken when either of the binding factors is lost, which means ”ontological” death regardless of simply being alive.
After having speculated this concept of death, I learned that there is a study investigating the relationship between soul and body, which has a foundation on Spiritualism explored by Aristotle and Henri Bergson.
At this point, I came to a realization that birth and death are not linear concepts that have definite beginning and end but are in circulation.
Birth is the moment of an assembly while death is the state of soul and body disassembled. The most important thing to understand is that birth and death or life and death work organically in this massive circulation as a female mantis eats a male after sex and the offspring eat their mother as well. The circulation in which the disassembled fragments come together and separated is also a gigantic organism, in this sense, I named my works Poetic Organism intending to focus on ”Organic”.
Boundary of life and death becomes unclear as we decide to understand ”being alive” and ”dying” in terms of convergence and dispersion. ”Being alive” is nothing but a remaining state of cluster with ”Binding factors” working actively. Body we all have start being oxidized from the moment of birth and will stop working at some point. As I pointed earlier, this boundary of life and death is not clear. Birth is the beginning of death, therefore, birth is ritual death.
I investigate and paint the incidents occurring in the cluster of soul and body in the process of birth and death. My work is about imagining and picturing the moments of convergence and dispersion such as pregnancy, birth, abortion, variation of body and severance, slaughter, surgical operation, and death. I often use the theme of ritualized birth and death such as the birth of saints, martyrs being executed, ascension and resurrection.
With the point being made, death is the paradoxical ritual of birth. Accordingly, it need not be described in a frightening or sad way, still, it needs to be colorful and pompous. Thus, the death I present shows bright colors and gold adornments as the uniforms of soldiers going to a warplace do.
As my works are mostly depicting religious events, I was inspired by various holy pictures such as Vanity paintings in 17th century, ”Assumption of Mary”, and ”Annunciation”. I am specifically interested in reinterpreting the composition and color of Korean altar portrait of Buddha, and I also hope that my works can draw audience into questioning about being as a holy picture can.