One and J. Gallery: Dongwook Suh, Ahnnlee Lee, and Yoonhee Choi 'Acquainted with the Night'

2 - 17 June

One and J. Gallery, presents the group exhibition Acquainted with the Night featuring three Korean artists - Dongwook Suh, Ahnnlee Lee, and Yoonhee Choi. 

This exhibition metaphorically explores the darkness of loneliness, alienation, and other aspects of human fate, likening it to the night, and depicts the lives of all of us who live in companionship with the night. The three artists present a diverse range of expressions stemming from their inner nights through portraits, figurative paintings (Dongwook Suh), abstract paintings (Yoonhee Choi), installations, and sculptures (Ahnnlee Lee). Dongwook Suh, who explores figurative paintings originating from empathy towards humans, portrays the hidden dark inner selves of modern individuals, including loneliness, through cinematic composition on pictorial screens. Yoonhee Choi sensually captures deep emotions that ripple within her inner self, visually expressing, centred around her own body. Ahnnlee Lee tells about this visual interpretation of the tranquil moments of small existence through his poem ‘Alchemy’ (2019). Alongside the poem, two installation works harmoniously occupy the space between the paintings of the two artists imbuing vitality in the new time and space.

The exhibition’s title, “Acquainted with the Night” shares its name with a poem by Robert Frost (1874-1963, USA) published in 1928. Over time, the speaker of the poem becomes familiar and acquainted with the metaphorical darkness associated with the night. Despite being written a century ago in a different context, the speaker’s situation still resonates with us today. Both the speaker from the analogue era and us, residing in the digital age, share an acquaintance with the night. Facing solitude and darkness is an inevitable human fate. As our connections and relationships with the outside world are increasingly mediated by numerous forms of media, the sense of loneliness and alienation among modern individuals can paradoxically grow stronger. The night holds diverse interpretations tied to our emotions and circumstances, often seen as melancholic and solitary, yet it also provides a space-time for profound contemplation. In the pitch-dark night illuminated by distant moonlight, we calmly contemplate our existence, relying on the faint light within the darkness. Through night of solitary wandering in the rain or nights devoid of attention, we repeatedly encounter and acquaint ourselves with these unexpected visitors in our lives. In the exhibition “Acquainted with the Night”, we invite you to encounter the “light” of the three artists who unravel the nights they have personally encountered.

Dongwook Suh's (b. 1974, Korea) paintings has a deep compassion for humanity. With a delicate painterly expression matching the depth of his emotions, he reflects on our lives in the presence of models. Moving beyond superficial resemblance, he selects close acquaintances as subjects to glimpse into the inner world of these figures. In this exhibition, he showcases his unique style developed over years of exploring the human psyche, projecting his own solitude, joy and vulnerability onto the characters depicted in his ongoing painting series ‘Interiors, Figures’ spanning over a decade. Until 2010, Dongwook Suh pursued video and painting as separate mediums. However, with ‘Interiors, Figures,’ he integrates them into a single scene within the realm of painting. Through a cinematic approach, he captures staged scenes using photography and then records them in oil paintings, creating a narrative depicted as a single sequence. Thus, his work can be described as the mise-en-scène of painting. When taking photographs, he skilfully manipulates natural light from windows, doors, and curtains to capture the expressions of the figures, avoiding artificial lighting. This technique creates a striking contrast between the figures and the dark interiors, devoid of artificial illumination. During the process of re-recording them in oil paintings, he imbues psychological insights that were not conveyed in the original photographs. The figures in his paintings, mostly scheduled in interiors, possess hazy gazes, and concealed inner worlds, their focus uncertain, as people often conceal their dark inner selves from others; yet when alone in an empty room, they readily surrender to self-reflection and introspection. Suh captures these moments as scenes in his paintings, inviting us to reflect on our own fragile inner selves, like a mirror.

Yoonhee Choi (b. 1986, Korea), who senses things not visible to the naked eye centred around her own body, has gradually shifted her focus from external landscapes to inner landscapes. Aligning breath and movements with her inner rhythm, the artist gradually surfaces deep-seated emotions unexpressed outwardly. Continuously exploring emotions within her own body, Choi intimately engages with the canvas, smearing and painting with her hands to capture the ever-present emotional lines encountered in each moment. As a result, her paintings resemble vast and indeterminate expanses of colour, evoking an immense abyss where tangled and unravelling emotional threads float and interwind. Choi’s artistic journey encompasses various series, starting with ‘Silent Noise’ (2022-), focusing on inner movement. Through subsequent series like ‘Fallen Out’ (2023-) and ‘The Mouth of a Sound’ (2023-), she constructs expanded abstract paintings. The newly presented work, Silent Noise #6 (2023), delves into empty emotions with repeated strokes capturing both the release of stifled emotions and the complexities of the creative process. Fallen Out #1 (the changing beginning) (2023) from the series ‘Fallen Out’ signifies the excitement and anticipation at a new starting point, like a blooming flower bud. Similarly, the series ‘The Mouth of a Sound’ portrays unseen auditory vibrations originating from the mouth, as seen in The Mouth of a Sound #2 (2023) with intricate lines representing condensed sound traces. Through incorporating verbalised sounds and gestures, her artworks become a dance of inner energy acquainting herself with the night.

Ahnnlee Lee (b. 1985, Korea) attentively observes the surrounding details and fleeting moments, including seeds, leaves, flowers, fruits, light, and birds. Drawing from his senses, he explores the inherent purity of his subjects, expressing it through a balanced and sculptural approach. Through gestures like scratching, weaving, and scraping, he infuses vitality into small and tranquil existences. The exhibition “Acquainted with the Night” particularly emphasises the three-dimensional movement in his artwork. Displayed alongside the poem ‘Alchemy’ written by the artist in 2019, the vertical hanging sculptures, Alchemy, Transmutation of Matter (2023), evokes the shape of plants, while the sculpture Feedback II (2022) features a small object nestled within a wooden shelf. His practice, akin to alchemy, manifests a longing for what is not yet obtained. He captures fleeting moments of nature and immortalizes them in bronze, enabling portable contemplation across various times and locations. Through sculpture Feedback II, he arranges small metal objects that capture the fleeting nature of seeds, peanuts, and other natural elements on discarded wooden shelves, embracing and cherishing delicate and small things. The sculptures Alchemy, Transmutation of Matter are vertically suspended from the ceiling, inspired by the artist’s imagination of what would happen if one sewed the night sky together to eliminate darkness. The artist meticulously inserts small metal components into the wire, resembling threading a needle, repeatedly, binding and unbinding them to transform them into various forms. Like the growth of a plant sprouting from a small seed, this artwork possesses the potential to continuously grow and transform in all directions. Similarly, neither we cannot predict whether the seeds that we carry to have the potential to become something would be, a bird and an elephant in the unpredictable reality, nor the anxiety brought about by the unpredictable nature of our inner seeds we like with both a sense of unease and hope, nurturing our seeds in our own unique ways. Ian Lee thoroughly examines the seeds of all the bid and small things that come into his daily life, demonstrating an attitude of nurturing and positivity towards his own existence.

Dongwook Suh, Smoking DW, 2019. Oil on canvas, 162.2 x 130.3 cm
Dongwook Suh, Smoking DW, 2019. Oil on canvas, 162.2 x 130.3 cm. Courtesy of One and J. Gallery and the artist.