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Exhibition visit: Shin Meekyoung — Painting Series, at HADA Contemporary

Shin Meekyoung: Painting Series (2015) (Soap, colour, wooden frames) at HADA Contemporary, 5 February 2015
Shin Meekyoung: Painting Series (2015) (Soap, colour, wooden frames) at HADA Contemporary

According to the notice advertising the exhibition, Shin Meekyoung’s Painting Series questions the values we ascribe to art works: by using expendable material rather than canvas and oils, and by avoiding the depiction of any discernible subject matter, she aims “to question the authority the painting has enjoyed for centuries.”

Shin’s soap paintings are meant to be featureless – and indeed some of them are. Like a Roman wax writing tablet, which could be the medium for anything from school exercises to a record of business transactions, Shin’s paintings invite you to take a stylus and record your own stories on the tabula rasa.

But, like it or not, the human brain is programmed to see patterns and interpret shapes – without such preprogramming Rorschach would not have devised his inkblot test. Some of the paintings exploit the full range of soap colours and evoke the palette of a Manet or a Turner, while others tease you by having the gradations of colour ill-defined, making you wonder if the eyes are focusing correctly. The dark blue oval reminded me of a locket my grandmother used to wear, while others could have been slabs of marble set in a frame.

The ensemble benefited by being densely packed together in an enclosed space – the normal gap in the wall which provides access to the office space and the secondary gallery space having been seamlessly plastered over for the purposes of the exhibition.

Shin Meekyoung’s Painting Series is at HADA Contemporary until 29 March.

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