Monday, 25 May 2009


MFA Painting Program, University of Illinois
BFA, Drawing and Painting, School of Art, University of Georgia
BA, Korean Literature, Sung Shin Women's University, Seoul, Korea

"The work of Asian-American painter Suk Ja Kang-Engles is a manifestation of her struggle to escape the cultural and social bounds implied by the designation of Asian-American. "I think of myself, first of all, as a woman still in the process of escaping from the stridently patriarchal culture of Korea. While America has often seemed to offer less restrictions than Korea did, I continue to find myself subject to forces that try to define who and what I am. The ongoing struggle between these past and present impositions versus my resistance to them has been the central animating tension through the many stages of my art," Kang-Engles writes.

Truly, the paintings of Kang-Engles act as a means of liberation - not only on a personal level for the artist, but as the catalyst to shatter preconceived notions held by the viewer. The Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein proposed that despite an individual's impression of seeing the outline and shape of an object in front of us, we are actually seeing the frame through which we see that object. "I want to free the viewer from these frames of visual reference," Kang-Engles explains, "by creating the effect of imagery freed from the tyrannous habits of interpretation."

Kang-Engles creates stunningly beautiful paintings in her exploration of this philosophical ideal. For example, her "Eye-Con" series consists of canvases intensely saturated with red glazes; delicate markings of graphite lines and forms float suspended between the layers of sheer red paint, creating subtle indications of landscapes, mountain scenes, or birds. However, these markings are subordinated by the overwhelming power and intensity of her use of the color red. "Because the color red is so quick to leap into iconic status for the Western mind in its conceptions of exotic Asian-ness, the overwhelming redness of these pieces symbolizes for me other false (yet standardized) facets of the 'Orientalist' mindset. I want red to predominate in this series so fully that it obscures perception of potential imagery," Kang-Engles writes. "I want to suggest that when the inner Western eye turns to 'the East,' it can be conned into a certain blindness, if it has not unlearned that which it likes to think it knows."

Suk Ja Kang-Engles immigrated to the United States from South Korea approximately twenty years ago, and has been active as an artist and curator since that time. Kang-Engles has been exhibiting with the Bill Lowe Gallery since 1997, and her 1998 exhibition with the Bill Lowe Gallery was favorably reviewed in Art in America. She has exhibited throughout the United States since 1994, and has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants. She earned a BFA in Drawing and Painting from the University of Georgia, and an MFA in Painting from the University of Illinois." (Bill Lowe Gallery)


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