November 30, 2016

Pills for the Heart. Leftovers from a conversation with GuNa, resident at NON Berlin

These are thoughts that came up during my visit to GuNa’s exhibition My black brown at NON Berlin on Saturday November 26, from 3:30 till 6pm in the afternoon. 

Talking with Nayeon and GuNa. Photo: Courtesy NON Berlin

Leftovers are the rests of food that you decided not to eat and throw away. Arriving at her residency in Berlin, GuNa wanted to do good to her body, shaken by moving to a different place ("Moving to a different place is interesting but at the same time there is always fear by my side" so GuNa in the exhibition flyer), and she bought healthy, bright, colourful food like lemons and bananas. The dried leftovers of that intention are very carefully displayed at NON Berlin. GuNa seems to hold on to waste and abandonment, with an intensity that is unable to let fully go. 

There is some rest in everything one has decided to do, the choices one has made. What stays are the leftovers of those other options. That’s where the melancholy sets in.

Stupidity comes before wisdom, so a Korean saying goes. Not to know, and touching upon that. 

GuNa likes to paint plants that are half dead, that are not been taking care of, abandoned. Berlin lets its plants decay in wintertime, so she noticed during her residency. One doesn’t seem to put them inside, as people do in Korea, or cover them up outside so they can survive wintertime. In Korea the trees are nicely cut, she says. GuNa appreciates the negligence of Berliners, to let things go ugly, bent and twisted - to let death be in a season that’s welcoming it. 

Courtesy NON Berlin

In GuNa's paintings the depicted figures, once fully convinced of their strength (fist and arm stretched forward), are not (yet) dead, just like the plants, they are hovering somewhere in between. GuNa lets them die only halfway. 

If you look at GuNa’s portfolio, there is the same small painting of a bird that always pops up in displays, as if holding everything together. At the NON space, the bird is at the staircase that leads to the basement. In the harmonically balanced composition of the show, the location of the bird at the staircase seems to suggest a way out of it, not upwards, but inwards. 

The heart is weak in GuNa’s work. It’s weakened by a melancholy that comes from the past, being sick in childhood. A painting shows the pills, enlarged, that are taken to strengthen the heart. A chemical poison that kills as much as it makes alive.  

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