Surya Gied is a Korean-born German abstract painter whose work straddles the imperfect line between a memory and an adventure, an unseen déjà vu that incorporates your sublimated collection of thoughts into an uneasy landscape. Gied’s work is being well received by the Berlin art world and [^]LAND joins a line of many who are hot on her heels to fawn over both her weird drawings and heavy paintings. [^]LAND caught up with her in a Berlin park, after cycling round the city looking for the perfect pickle.
When you were 8 years old your family moved from South Korea to Germany. In January of this year you went back to Seoul for 6 months. How did the change of scene impact your work and do you think it made a difference that you spent your early childhood in Korea?
I think that residencies and traveling influences you on a subtle level. Everything that you see, eat, feel will influence your art. Sometimes you have things that you are interested in, like subjects or themes but art just evolves from everything that you absorb. With Korea it was a really intense experience because I hadn’t been there for 20 years and the Korea I knew as a child was still pretty traditional and was in the early stages of economic growth, so I could still see the traditional way of life in the present social structures hidden within families or in the way that people reacted to things. But it is such a fast growing State.
The work I produced before and after Korea is pretty different from what I did in Korea. I thought that I would continue with the painting technique or the things I painted to continue here in Berlin, but somehow they didn’t. But I think through the experience of being in Korea, what I painted there, the new paintings get more focused and I think it is through dealing intensively with painting and drawing I could focus on the process. It just helped me to get to a point and see my own position as an artist. But mostly my work is very intuitive, so the process is on the one hand intuitive and on the one hand formalistic, so my paintings are very thought through. They are not totally emotionally painted, maybe the colours and shapes come from an intuitive moment, but anything else is really formalistic I would say…
You have said in the past that it is like you have two creative flows; one when you are drawing and another for when you are painting. How do your paintings and drawings differ?
This is a question I am still thinking about and it is a question I think I will be thinking about for the next few years, as I really don’t know what is happening but it really feels like my brain is shifting. It is a different media and it is a different way of working so that is nothing special, it is nothing abnormal. But it is so extremely obvious in my work that the drawings are very light, in how they seem to be, they are very playful. They also have this abstract and weird moment, but it is just very direct. I think the media is so direct for me and… oil painting is just so slow and I have so much time in between just to think and that is how my paintings evolve, they are very formalistic and they are very step-by-step. And I am trying right now, not to find a connection, because I don’t need an obvious connection, but to find a way maybe to either bring the drawings more into a painting context. That doesn’t mean that I will paint with oil and copy the drawings, but just thinking about different ways of seeing the drawing and painting, and trying to have a link between them, but in a more contextualized way.
It seems you have an aversion toward your work being perceived as “too sweet”, what’s up with that?
I just think that it is too easy for a skilled painter to paint images of nice, decorative beautiful things, which is great if you want to do it, but my expectations for art and ideas about art is more about really changing the perspective of the viewer. Most of the time if paintings are just decorative and nothing really happens, it’s just nice. So I am very conscious that when I am painting I don’t want to be on that level. I think for me as an artist it might not be so brilliant because a lot of people think it is too exhausting to hang my paintings in their living rooms because it is not a decorative, easy work. My works are very intense, so you really have to like the style, I think.
Sometimes I test myself during painting, just trying to step back. And I really have an aesthetic way of painting, in general I like nice and beautiful things so I have to be conscious of that. So you can say “Ok, this is beautiful, but what else do you want to show with that?” and that really functions pretty well. If I really have a feeling that a work is too “nice”, I don’t want to make it ugly, but it’s about making maybe one point ugly and it’s all about the borders; if you show beauty in a shithole, the beauty comes out so extremely, the light comes out. It is much more interesting that having beauty there all over because you just don’t appreciate it anymore.
How would you say your work fits in to the contemporary Berlin art scene?
In the last couple of years, more and more people are becoming interested in abstract art. We had almost 8 years where the market was flooded by figurative painting. Daniel Richter, Peter Doig… they are really big, and abstract painting was almost non-existent. Now it is coming back and as an abstract painter I think that it is maybe a good point in time to show, but I never really think strategically so I don’t know how I would fit in. But I know that I am not doing totally normal things. Berlin has a lot of good artists and there are a lot of things that are similar in my work and other people’, like stripes and my use of lacquer. There are artists who use it in an extreme way: there is one artist Ronald De Bloeme from the Netherlands who just does stripes, but in such a perfect way, with a perfect technique. After a while it becomes boring because I don’t like perfect-ness. When I tape my things, I never tape them perfectly because I like little imperfections, the non precise with the precise. I like artists who put something different, something opposite with the painting.
What does the future hold for Surya Gied?
My biggest desire is to do good paintings. There is a personal definition of what is a good painting, but for me it is actually really being on the line between abstraction and association. And I like it when things are falling to one of the other the whole time so you can’t just tell what it is. I think that I don’t like being categorized and I don’t want the paintings to be categorized, so maybe that is why I am dealing with the subject; everything can be everything and nothing, at the same time it is pointless. I am just interested in that subject, maybe… so the future should be bright, full of good works getting more focused, having new ideas, several subjects and of course to bring everything together. Yeah…