"Portals" curated by Juliette Buffard Scalabre on view at UniX Gallery
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"Portals" curated by Juliette Buffard Scalabre on view at UniX Gallery
So Lee, Green Fence, 2021. Mixed media and oil on canvas, 62″ x 79.2″ 157.5 x 201 cm.

NEW YORK, NY.- UniX Gallery has began "Portals", an exhibition of new paintings by the Ghanaian artist Afia Prempeh and the South Korea-born artist So Lee. This will be their first gallery presentation in the US. The show opened with a public reception on December 8th, and is on view through February 4, 2023.

The title of the exhibition is suggestive of both windows and TV/computer screens, and it reflects both cross-geographic and cross-cultural reach of the works. These paintings transport the viewers into a different reality and serve as portals into the realm of both conscious and unconscious worlds. While figurative in nature, the works of both artists transcend the mundane and aim to explore complexities of the human psyche. They open new dimensions in the traditional genre of portraiture.

Ghana-based Afia Prempeh draws on art historical, political, personal, and national references. She creates dense figurative compositions that, precise in style, nonetheless conjure the complexity of contemporary experience. Her poignant view on life shows a multifaceted perspective through the lens of Ghanaian history and connects its past, present, and future.

Prempeh’s paintings are also reflective self-examinations: while realistically rendered, they explore the world of the unreal – of our dreams and aspirations. She often paints mirrors as tools for profound self-reflection. In her work they become portals into the realm of the soul and show the complex inner world of her subjects. The new roles of contemporary Ghanaian women are strongly emphasized – their professional aspirations are portrayed in the paintings’ details, like a palette of an artist or a computer and a business suit. Her women are independent, they look forward to a bright future and know their own self-worth.

So Lee is a Brooklyn-based, South Korea-born artist. Her paintings are focused on the visual and psychological exploration of childhood and domestic environments. While traditionally presented as a safe, carefree, and happy time in one’s life, childhood is often a treacherous and difficult period. Lee’s work offers a non-saccharine approach to the childhood representation. Heightened vulnerability, unprotected exposure to the complex world of adults and to the often-cruel peer-to-peer dynamic invariably create psychological and physical tensions that are reflected in her work.

Sometimes covered or disguised, children with mute faces stand or sit in front of the viewer like frozen frames. Often coated with bright paint layers and realized on large-scale, her works exude theatrical enigma and produce a cinematic effect.
Lee’s free approach is further evidenced in her varied handling of paint, which at times recalls washes of Color Field painting with thinly applied swaths of peach, green, and fuchsia, that she combines with precise and detailed figuration.

Afia Prempeh was born in Kumasi, Ghana. She earned her bachelor’s degree in painting from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (K.N.U.S.T) in 2009. Prempeh’s works have been exhibited at the National Museum of Science and Technology, Accra, Ghana. She was the artist-in-residence and had a subsequent solo show at the 1957 Gallery in 2021.

So Lee is a South Korean-born visual artist and educator living in Brooklyn, NY. She has a degree in molecular biology and worked in the basic scientific research field, in both academia and the biomedical industry.

She received an MFA in studio art from the City College of New York (CUNY) in 2022. Her work has been included in a group exhibition and in a solo thesis show at CUNY in 2022, and in a group show at Chashama in 2022. So Lee currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with her two children.

"Portals" runs through February 4, 2023, and the gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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