Say Hi to Forever
Solo Exhibition By Sookoon Ang
29 May – 19 June 2012
Birthdays and birthday cakes; icy pink frosting and glittering things; fairytales and cartoon characters gone awry. Visual artist Sookoon Ang’s world is a place of contradictions, one in which the eternally youthful uneasily and resignedly accept transience. There is, as a result, fullness and emptiness, ecstasy and anxiety.
In British filmmaker Sally Potter’s 1992 film Orlando, a filmic interpretation of Virginia Woolf’s novel that traverses across time and gender, the young eponymous hero/ine of the novel kisses a lover and then turns away, dejected; Orlando is happy now, but painfully aware that it won’t last. His lover laughs and says, “Orlando, you suffer from a strange kind of melancholy, which is that you suffer in advance.”
There is, in Say Hi To Forever a sense of suffering in advance. The series takes its name from the last weblog (strikingly called I Like to Fork Myself) post by Daul Kim, a 20-year old Korean model and aspiring painter, before she committed suicide in her Paris apartment in November 2009. A month before her death, Kim poignantly wrote on her blog: “one could get numb living like this. pretty things. comfort. vanity. decadent nights to make up for losses. but this endless loneliness.”
The artist’s series speaks to these sentiments, but it isn’t a montage of melancholic models and snippets of their pensive, virtual universe. Instead the collection, which comprises drawings, inkjet prints, web-based images and sculpture using organic materials, harks back to an earlier time, suggesting that the tensions expressed by young women like Daul Kim begin when they are little girls.
Sookoon’s point of reference is My Little Pony, the toy manufacturer Hasbro’s line of toys, primarily targeting girls, released in the early 1980s and phased out in the mid-1990s. The ponies like pretty things, they’re vain, they’re playful. They have distinct colours, manes and personalities with the tagline “Friendship is Magic!”
But in Sookoon’s drawings, the ponies have been removed from their multi-coloured utopia and placed into an angular, two-dimensional realm of lightning, sharp-edged pyramids and thunderclouds. They still have a twinkle in their eye and they are still happy. But as the series progresses, they find themselves in compromising situations, isolated, angry, filled with bad dreams. Friendship is no longer magic; it is a masquerade, a photo shoot, a thing that will not last.
One of the pieces, Balthus, is a nod to the controversial French painter of sexually aroused pre-teens and twisted domestic scenes. Spin the Black Circle takes the spin the bottle game and places the pony Applejack in a black void with planets spinning around her. Two renditions of Hit Me Baby One More Time (the name of the 1998 hit single by Britney Spears) show Pinkie Pie, the pony described as “very funny, talkative and a bit air-headed” in a typical Spears-inspired haunches-bearing pose.
Just as the Hasbro toys now exist in televised series, games and applications for iOS and Apple devices, Sookoon’s series too, makes the transition into the contemporary realm with a 20-second animation loop also called Say Hi To Forever and an animation GIF called Saccharin Girls. All of the uneasy contradictions of the My Little Pony drawings persist here – pretty pink things, innocence, playfulness and frivolity. But the cumulative impact is subversive: being a child, a young person, is hardly a time free of the complexities of the adult universe.
The solitary sculpture The Best Vitality Cannot Excel Decay (from an Emily Dickinson poem) is a poignant end to the series. Melding her previous experiments with growing crystal on breads and her 16mm short film Birthday Cake, candles and colourful lumps of crystal residue sit on a loaf of permanently preserved bread. Here, youth, parties, nourishment and decay all coalesce – a heady mix of happiness and death.
- SooKoon Ang