Sangsun Bae

Sangsun Bae(LEE & BAE)

Sangsun Bae’s inspiration comes from the umbilical cord, which is the primal, physical line that connects two humans, and uses it as a metaphor to address her thoughts on humans and human life through topics such as the lines of a human body, the physical distance from others, relationship between humans, and the relationship between history and individuals. She makes use of a wide range of media, including charcoal and velvet paintings, three-dimensional ceramics, and photos, to reveal the irony of organic lines that can’t be unentangled, thereby continuing her questions on humans and life.

Sangsun Bae was born in Hwasun, Jeollanam-do in 1971. She majored in Western painting at Sungkyunkwan University, and then studied at the Graduate School of Musashino Art University and Kyoto City University of Art in Japan, before continuing her studies at Royal College of Art in the U.K., where she majored in print. In 2005 and 2008, she was named one of the notable artists in “Prospect of Contemporary Art – Artists on a New Plane” at the Mori Art Museum in Japan, and attracted critical attention. Bae has held a number of solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions as well as art fairs. She has been presenting works in major cities around the world, including Seoul, London, Hong Kong, Miami, Basel and Paris, with positive reviews from art critics. The artist currently lives in Kyoto and works in Korea and Japan.

In the photography series Chandelier, countless and colorful thin threads that are intertwined emerge from darkness. Korean and Japanese silk threads are so tightly tangled that they can’t be unraveled easily. Sangsun Bae’s work, which has been devoted to the discourse on “relationship,” sheds light on the subject once again, on a historical background based on constant consideration and research. Photography and videos are added to existing paintings such as Gordias’ Knot, The Shape of Relations, and The Echo of Line, which express the identity of relationship, demonstrating the complex situation of Korea-Japan relations in modern history. Chandelier series shines dim light on the memories of colonial rule that have been suppressed and buried in the history of the country.

• Excerpt from a critique by Megumi Takashima

Sangsun Bae
Solo Exhibition
2022 Overlapping layers, Takashimaya NEXT gallery, Osaka, Japan
2020 Chandelier, Ashiya Schule Gallery, Ashiyasi, Japan
More&Less, Tosei kyoto gallery, Kyoto, Japan
Layers of Time, Tosei Kyoto gallery & KG+, Kyoto, Japan
2019 Layers of time, LEE & BAE, Busan, Korea
Moon-bow, Kyotography KG+, Kyoto, Japan
2022 The Dignity of Art, LEE & BAE, Busan, Korea
3 Artists Exploring the Theme of Art, Tosei Kyoto Gallery, Kyoto, Japan
Black, and White: The color of silence, LEE & BAE, Busan, Korea
Echo Oharano 2022, Oharano studio gallery, Kyoto, Japan
2020 KYOEN International Artists inspired by Kyoto, Kyoto, Japan
2019 Busan : It exists now as it was then, Busan, Cultural Foundation&F1963, Busan, Korea
2018 Entwined Repeating, Sfera Exhibition, Kyoto, Japan
CIRCLE Michael Whittle & Sangsun Bae, Trinity gallery, Seoul, KoreaLEE & BAE
Circle of life Sangsun Bae & Yokomizo Miyuki,, LEE & BAE, Busan, Korea
2019 KYOTOGRAPHIE『KG+AWARD 2019』Seleted Kyoto Japan
2017 Hang Chang-Woo Tetsu Cultural Foundation grant-in-aid winner
2014 Artist Residency, Kyoto Art Center
2008 Shinsegae Gallery Prize, Gwangju
2005 Plein Air Workshop Scholarship, Art Association of Germany and Japan
The Allen Thomas jnr Collection
The Korean National Museum of Contemporary Art
The Akino Fuku Museum
The Ujong Museum
The Kim Chongyung Sculpture Museum
The International Suzuki Foundation

Curator : Jaeho Shim & Aritst : Sangsun Bae


Q. From early drawings, charcoal paintings, ceramics, and velvet paintings to your recent photos, there is diversity in the media you explore. I would like to ask why you work with so many different media.
Various relationships develop and evolve in our lives; likewise, my artistic media have also evolved. I started drawing nude models to try and understand humans. The contours of their bodies I drew became abstract lines and eventually evolved into charcoal work. Black velvet works were made to unravel invisible human relationships, and ceramic projects emerged from the idea of throwing and breaking them (as symbols of problems), if they can’t be addressed. The complexity of history, which is so complicated that the reason to draw or paint it is forgotten, is conveyed through photos of skeins. So I have been making art in a range of different media that is fitting with the topic or situation I wish to address.


Q. You adopt various media to deliver your message, yet the idea of “a continuing line” runs through all of your works. Where did this artistic expression originate from?
I drew human bodies, and I spent two years exploring organic “lines” derived from them. I think those two years became the starting point of my work and practice. I then got married and gave birth, which inspired me to use the umbilical cord that once connected me and my child as an artistic motif and draw lines. I thought the process of depicting various stories in human relationships and the relationship between history and individuals were “lines” of our lives.


Q. I heard the Chandelier series is based on Korea-Japan relations and is a research project on specific subjects in Daejeon.
I live and work in Kyoto, so I naturally feel and experience remnants of modern history. Then in 2015, I participated in “The Research Project” at Daejeon Culture and Arts Foundation, which gave me the opportunity to study such fragments of history. Behind Daejeon Station, there is a neighborhood called Soje-dong, which was once the area with the official residences of Japanese railway engineers and their families. The streets there formed in the early 1900s by the Japanese people who were there to construct the Gyeongbu Line railway in preparation for the Russo-Japanese War, as Daejeon was a critical intermediate stopping point. A surprising fact is that the Japanese population in Daejeon increased upto 2,479 in 1910, but most people don’t know this. I used this historical fact and subject to interview very old Japanese people who were born and raised in Daejeon, and I was able to collect items like postcards with drawings of pre-war Daejeon, street maps, and family photo albums. Rather than focusing on emotions toward particular countries, I drew attention to studying the meaning of Daejeon and the meaning of life for these people who were stuck in the historical relation between Japan and Korea and thus unwelcomed at either countries. Based on this research, I have been making videos and taking photos of skeins of thread in various colors.


Q. The skeins remind us of fancy chandeliers, so I had no idea that there is such a serious story behind the series. Now that I know, the title seems very ironic. Do you have plans to exhibit the series with the products of your research?
No one listened to their stories for 70 years, so I wanted to bring their lives to the limelight. The average age of the interviewees was over 80, so I always thought that the time I meet them could always turn out to be my last encounter with them. I wanted to shed stronger light on the meaning of these individuals’ lives in the twilight of their days. I presented parts of my research in a group exhibition with the Daejeon Culture and Arts Foundation, but if there is ever a chance for me to exhibit them alongside the same issue in other countries, I would love to be a part of it.


Q. It seems like your exploration of human bodies expands from the relation between humans to history between nations. I’m very curious about and look forward to seeing what your next step will be.
Everything is defined by relationships. And within this framework, I have participated in various projects and works, thanks to opportunities that looked coincidental but were in fact inevitable. My practice started out from the exploration of human bodies and came all the way to the exploration of people in relation to their nations and histories. Even if I make another step forward in my life as an artist, I think I will repeat the process of expansion and contraction, eventually going back to studying humans, and ultimately myself.