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Chinese artist brings childhood nostalgia to Seoul

Song Yige’s perspective rich, imaginative

She had a perfect childhood in Harbin, China, and those innocent days made her who she is as an artist today.

Song Yige is holding her second solo exhibition at Gallery Hyundai in Gangnam, Seoul, starting Jan. 7.

The 30-year-old was discovered by world-renowned Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi last year. With his support, Song held her first show last year at ART MIA Gallery in Beijing.
Song Yige (left) poses with renowned Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi at Hotel Shilla in Seoul, Wednesday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald.)
Song Yige (left) poses with renowned Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi at Hotel Shilla in Seoul, Wednesday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald.)

Zeng, who had just returned to Beijing from an art competition in London, after reviewing more than 1,400 pieces of artwork by young artists as a judge, happened to see Song’s works through a close friend. He was instantly mesmerized.

“I didn’t have much interest in works of young artists,” Zeng told The Korea Herald in Seoul on Wednesday.

“But Song’s works were different. Many young artists in China, I think, tend to be repetitive and unoriginal, but Song manages to express her own worldview that’s certainly rich and imaginative.”

And her worldview, certainly original among others, comes from Song’s “perfect” childhood and the disillusioning transition into adulthood. The titles of her works are telling in this regard: “Bored” and “Helplessness.”

Wearing dark framed glasses and no make-up, Song, effortlessly cool, showed her shy but reflective nature.

“I used to think the main street in my hometown was huge,” Song said. “But when I went back recently, the street was so narrow that my car couldn’t even enter. These things inspire me ― how my thoughts as a child inevitably differ from my thoughts now.”

Song’s works are simple. They often consist of everyday utensils and items, such as old water buckets and discarded cigarette stubs, bathtubs and travel trunks. Painted in simple, toned-down colors, the works offer multiple meanings that come from Song’s own personal memories.

“I used to be extremely carefree as a child,” Song said. “I didn’t worry about anything, and was easily fascinated and entertained. But as a grown up, I’ve lost those qualities. Many of my works express what I thought I saw, or imagined as a child.”
“Helplessness 5” by Song Yige
“Helplessness 5” by Song Yige

Among many other items, Song showed special artistic attachment to bathtubs and the public bathhouses she used to visit as a child. “Bathtubs have a huge meaning to me,” Song said. “You become the purest form of yourself in a bathtub. You wash yourself without having any clothes on. That touches and inspires me.“

Keen and observant by nature, Song admires Francis Bacon and Zeng Fanzhi. “There are so many great artists all over the world,” Song said. “But the two are the only ones who actually inspired me to do something and grow as an artist.”

Born in Harbin, China, Song studied at Luxun Academy of Fine Arts in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, and moved to Beijing in 2008.

The exhibition showcases a total of 16 pieces by Song. It runs until Feb. 6.

By Claire Lee (