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July 26 - August 30, 2008 at Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica

by Andy Brumer

"Installation," 2008, acrylic,
dimensions variable

Spring II," 2008 acrylic
on panel, 76 x 72".

"Petals V," 2008, acrylic
on panel, 38 x 72".

"Petals IV," 2008, acrylic
on panel, 38 x 72".

Gina Han’s latest paintings feel like poetically composed and constructed organic communities, planted with primitive pods that seem to grow on each piece’s surface into alert and tenderhearted creatures. Born of a kind of collective mythologizing imagination, these works also reveal Han’s very individual and protean imagination, a powerful and tender feminine sensibility, as well as a high degree of skill in the handling of her materials. Indeed, Han pours her paint directly onto her canvasses or wood panels, yet manages to construct leafy and/or bean/egg-shaped forms. These rise slightly off their surfaces in relief, with perfectly defined outer edges. Revealing a subtle blend of muted pastel and bright, candy-colored, “neony” hues, these acrylic presences both contain their paint in autonomous pools suggesting depth, and build it up outwardly into thin but elevated surfaces.

Together this receding/extending rhythm suggests breathing or the crashing then retreating of waves from the shore, adding both physical and emotional volume to each piece. Some of her acrylic surfaces also display tiny holes or pockmarks, the inevitable result and remnants of small bursts of air bubbles in the paint. That they inadvertently point to the simmering carbonations of the La Brea Tar Pits pond only graces Han’s deceptively simple-looking works with additional layers of associations and metaphorical energy.

Han employs multiple panels, which she creates individually in an extremely focused and meditative manner, but then composes improvisationally into diptychs, triptychs and/or multitychs (often at the last instant before hanging a show). “Spring II,” for example, presents four such panels, each containing sensuously shaped volumes of acrylic protagonists intruding and edging collectively, as if in a choreographed contemporary dance, toward the work’s center. At once reminiscent of the flowers and ribbons in Matisse’s free-flowing and life affirming “Jazz” cutouts, as well as parts of a jigsaw puzzle defiantly intent on never fitting together, Han’s objects magically ignite themselves into animated souls that uninhibitedly converse, move, or quite simply, play with one another. Not surprisingly, she describes her process as a “controlled accident. . .where there are no accidents,” and in which she gives herself one “take” to pour her paint into essentially finished paintings.

In a recent show at the Huntington Beach Art Center, Han whipped up a fanciful installation of colorful acrylic pads, which she spaciously positioned and pasted flush to the gallery floor. Pied-piper-like, these pods led viewers--both their eyes and their feet--toward the gallery’s walls, where they coalesced and climbed upward, diminishing in size and almost dissolving into a spiritualized nothingness in a vortex at the wall’s corner crease.

Born in South Korea but raised in Paraguay, Han moved to Southern California when she was fourteen (during the 1980’s), and cites the color schemes of East Asian popular art forms, such as Japanese anime, as an influence on her art. That may be, but her work reflects far more reverently Asian art’s love of nature and genius for lyrical gracefulness than what could be construed as pop culture’s obsession with the androgynously blurred boundaries of adolescent consumerism.

Spring III," 2008 acrylic on panel, 13 x 72".