SunHe Hong is a Korean-American artist based in New York City.
After moving to U.S., SunHe earned her BFA in Fine Arts from Youngstown State University in Ohio. After graduation, she moved to New York City, worked as a fashion designer for five years and received an AAS degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She further studied art at the Art Students League in New York City.
“My art evokes a wide spectrum of feelings. It taps into your subconscious, bringing to life the hidden messages which lie within us, from our darkest pains to the most intimate forms of loving. If there is one thing I’d like people to learn from viewing my artwork, it is that life is always filled with endless beauty, even at its darkest time.” - SunHe
Her art is all about human emotion. SunHe is hypersensitive of her surroundings and captures them with a feverish hand. Although she was traditionally trained as a watercolorist and a landscape painter, she has become far more drawn to the human spirit. Those feverish strokes of ink, that she makes when she starts her process, elucidate her connection to the energy and essence of her subjects. They are representational, not so much of the subject’s physical being, but of their intangible existence. She abstracts her subjects, capturing their energy through line, shape, and color. She recreates the female body with a surreal edge, utilizing vivid colors and abstract markings to create a visceral, romantic experience. Each piece tells a story through this exposition of emotion. Then, it is littered with symbols of life that confer to her audience a personal sense of lyricism with a perturbing sensuality. Butterflies inhabit her work, hinting at a deeper message of a woman’s sensuality and the growth, metamorphosis, of her free spirited soul.
SunHe’s art is an expression of the human existence and her paintings reflect her life in color. Quite literally, one can view the work over time and see the changes in color and style that correspond with her stage in a continuous transformation. The pieces come together and form a mosaic, capturing the essence of her memories, each picture bearing a different feeling for a different time, a different circumstance. They display the raw and authentic relationships of this world, reminding us of our intimate emotional needs. Her works delve into the soulful dilemmas that are born from our desire to feel alive. Pain and Pleasure, Loneliness and Love. Reminding us that our art is our freedom. Our longings, fantasies and dreams allow us to escape the cages of reality and join a poetic existence.
Metaphysical Energy Interplays
As of 2018, SunHe Hong’s work has moved towards an abstract portrayal of the human spirit. Her Solo Exhibition: Metamorphosis (2021) and She Is... 2022 exhibition explored a new, interactive direction for her painting, and in subsequent shows she looks forward to sharing more of her vision with viewers. This recent work is performance art in the purest sense of the word. It draws how the performative exteriors we show the world interact with our internal energies: our erotic lives, our masculine and feminine selves, and our infatuations with both the self and the other.
For SunHe, performance does not mean inauthenticity, but rather a deeper, more visceral expression of the energy inside us. Performance forces us to interact with the other, something that is often lacking in a twenty-first century dominated by technology and digital mediums. In this age where social media allows everyone to perform, SunHe’s art celebrates the ways that the true energy of our self seeps into every act of performance and shows that no matter how digitized our worlds become, at our core, we are still all human.
This direction in SunHe’s career was unconsciously influenced by interactive, avant-garde, free-thinking art movements of the past such as the Fluxus movement of the 1960s. Fluxus drew its name from the idea of flux, meaning continual change. SunHe’s work is focused on the natural change all human beings experience throughout birth, death, and everything in between. Her work has organically changed and evolved as she experienced changes in her emotional life. “Human beings are electromagnetic creatures, and we are drawn to others through the frequencies between us,” she has said. “I realized what emotions truly were in their essence, which is a fluid energy that moves in different directions and metaphysically connects us.”
SunHe’s art celebrates the differences between masculine and feminine energy but is at its core inspired by her lived experience as a woman. Her take on femininity is not submissive or subjugated, but rather sensual, powerful and gestural. Masculine Dominance (2021) was SunHe’s take on the jagged edges of masculine energy. Diego and Friends, a collaborative painting with curator and designer Diego and several artistically minded friends from their circle, teems with the multiple energy signatures of both male and female participants. As a woman artist, her work defies definition and plays with the archetypes of femininity.
SunHe has chosen to call this part of her work "Emotional Abstraction / Metaphysical Energy Interplays.” When SunHe sits down to paint, she allows the energy around her to come to the page naturally, as if the painting approached her like a serendipitous lover at a bar on a Saturday night. Paintings like Swipe Right (2022) and Love Affairs (2018) celebrate the parallels between creating art and creating intimacy. In her most recent exhibitions, she has begun to invite gallery-goers to join her in the process and implement their own energies. Those around her add their marks to her pieces, which freezes their energy in time.
“We constantly respond to each other’s emotional energies,” SunHe reflected. “As the energy shifts between us, I capture it in ink—my most recent works are an investigation of these vibrations.” This is the essence of Emotional Abstraction / Metaphysical Energy : intangible and mysterious but simultaneously warm and familiar, as if you’re meeting yourself for the first time.
Book published by One Art Space Gallery and Forward written by Michael J. Masucci, Santa Monica Arts Commissioner.
View SunHe's Studio
The story of my growth as an artist from 2007 to 2018 in NYC: It takes place from initially restarting my career as an artist, to meeting tremendous individuals in the art world that have inspired me over the years, and even to how I believed my work and I would influence the prominent art figure Jeffrey Deitch to rethink the definitions of High Art in the contemporary art market of today. To read more click the link above
"Sunhe Hong is a contemporary artist whose passion for her work vibrates throughout her creations building a style that is unique and iconic. Informed by surrealism, impressionism and the diverse and complex narrative life experiences that she has lived, there is an intrinsic sensuality which dares to provoke our emotions and challenge our beliefs.
She exemplifies today’s strong and talented woman who unabashedly embraces both her emotional and spiritual sides, just as she will always equally embrace, and is in touch with, her intellectual and creative sides. Daring, bold and decidedly sensual, her work can be playful and can also embrace the most profound essence of creation itself. Hong never holds back and puts on canvas what the rest of us may sometimes hint at imagining but lack the courage, commitment or imagination to create.
Her color paintings use chromaticism not only as a highly skilled and personal visual vocabulary, but as an entire lexicon for the contemplation and exploration of self. Not only our own selves, but the selves of all that are human. A universality that transcends identity and enters a world where the conscious and unconscious are one. Familiar and yet also revelatory. We feel we have seen these images before, as if in some other realm. The colors seem as if from the astral plane, but her explorations are equally expressive when she chooses to exclude color altogether. Her monochromatic work speaks to an even deeper realm within us, hidden, lurking, but always there. A landscape all where our dreams and our waking lives intertwine.
Throughout her large body of work stands a through-line, where intimacy, humanity and the exploration of self is liberated, allowed to express itself unabashedly and with pride. Whether her portraiture, her abstracts or her work which conveys a positive eroticism, Hong invites the viewer to feel as well as to think. She always questions, always seeks to look further and always pushed herself past where she has always been. Her safety zone is the nexus between compassion and belief, between passion and liberation.
In becoming acquainted with her art, one needs to release oneself of any intrinsic preconceptions as to where the piece is centered. Because at it most absolute truth, her paintings contain multiple centers. There is that center which is decidedly narrative, a story contained as an image. But that is only the beginning of the journey. After entering the story within the painting, we then find the non-narrative components, which are informed by both the physical as well as the metaphysical. A deeper meaning. Suggesting the inner worlds of the quantum state.
Hong sees the inter-relatedness in nature. ‘As above so below.’ She sees in a flower the feminine human body. She sees in a smile a quest for peace and truth. And she sees in an embrace the communion which is the very goal of the human experience.
This is what defines an artist in the early 21st century. Fearless, inquisitive, inventive and proud to who she is. Proud to be a woman, proud to be living in a complex multicultural international world, where cultures collide, and beliefs are challenged. Yes, a strong, talented woman who expresses herself through imagery. Imagery that enters the mind and will never leave it."
- Michael J. Masucci