500 Words – Song Yi Ge
Song Yi Ge is a young artist from Harbin. Her first solo exhibition, ‘Song Yi Ge Paintings’, is currently on show at ARTMIA Foundation in Beijing, where she has lived and worked for the last two and a half years. Her sombre paintings feature muted colour and are often set in closed, empty rooms. The exhibition is not, however, without a hint of humour…Here, Song describes the origins and features of her work in more detail. Her aim for the future, she says, is simply to keep going, every day.
I discovered my interest in painting and art very early. I did mural paintings for the community and at school. Many things inspire me – it is hard to specify what, exactly, because my work comes from everything and every period of my life. Before 2009, it was very much about my personal feelings. At times, for example, I was not very happy, or felt lonely or upset. The paintings from this period are therefore somewhat grey in colour. I like to present my memories from childhood, so some images from that time feature classrooms or the streets I frequented back then. When I was a kid, I thought these places very big, wide and open. But later, I moved out of the city. When I returned I had grown up – I drove my own car. I discovered I could not even drive down those same streets, for everything was too small. I want to represent in my paintings the childhood feeling of things being much bigger and more empty. To some extent, my work is autobiographical. When you ask me what I think about when I hear the word ‘home’, the first thing that springs to mind is that it is too expensive to buy a house here! If we talk of the emotional response to ‘home’, I will think about the death of my Grandpa; the idea of home also conjures a feeling of incompleteness. It is difficult to measure the value of memory, however. My metaphor for the choice of subjects I make is that of a department store. When I choose a subject for my work, it comes from my eyes and instinct. I am simply drawn to certain things, just as you are in a shop.
I usually favour architectural environments as settings for my work because it is more suitable to represent a locked-up, closed, lonely feeling. I have painted a few natural scenes, but not many. It is not that appropriate to what I’m trying to show. I often paint old, worn, every day objects because I feel that these things have a story and a history. I like that; I rarely paint new things. I have painted a bath more than once because I have a bath every day; I spend at least an hour in the bath. Also the word for bath in Chinese, ‘yu’, also sounds like ‘yu’ meaning ‘desire’. I like this double meaning.
I moved to Beijing in April 2008. Every aspect of life is much larger. I enjoy the environment here: the more pressure and competition there is, the more chances there are. I do not paint to resolve my feelings, but simply to express them. I paint every work with my sensibility, and, though I never consider the audience when I paint, I think everyone can find an echo in the work. Helplessness is an ordinary or common feeling for humankind. Not all the works here are completely serious, though. ‘Boredom’ just describes a sentiment in a particular moment. There is a smaller painting called ‘Bathroom’ showing a small boy and some balloons – these are in fact condoms. It’s describing the stage of adolescence and that particular feeling of sexuality. You can take it as a joke!
I share with other young artists the same materials – canvas, oil – as well as access to the internet and to information that was not there before. My generation is all the same in that sense. My favourite artist is Francis Bacon. I like the use of corners in his compositions – the architectural element. They have a balance of form, I think. When I first saw the work in catalogues, however, I thought it wasn’t that good and was not very significant. But then I saw some of his paintings in Korea, and was very struck by them.