SUNG Byunghee

초토 (Scorched Earth), 162x130 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2020
초토 (Scorched Earth), 162x130 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2020

" For me, ART is a sharp blade that opens up the wound. "

SUNG Byunghee (b.1966, Seoul)


It must be natural for humans to feel anxiety just because we are humans.

We live in countless situations that we don't understand or even recognize. Why were we born and when will the unexpected danger happen? We have no idea. I graft such individual anxieties into social anxieties. l prefer filling the canvas with stories and metaphors than expressing it directly.

For me, art is a sharp blade that opens up the wound.

Even though it hurts once more, it enables us to confront the pain. Confronting pain once again makes us walk again. I hope my painting can be a comfort to your pain.

Some say “Don’t be afraid, world is a beautiful place.” But it is no consolation to the truly wounded. Instead, I show my pain naked to viewers, delivering “You are not the only one who are offended, I am too.” Art is not a detour or a mere wrapping paper, but a straightforward attack that forces us to look directly at the truth and confront it.

Memento mori, 91x117cm, acrylic on canvas, 2021
Memento mori, 91x117cm, acrylic on canvas, 2021

Memento mori Don't forget that you have to die! 

Memento te hominem esse Remember that you are human!

Respice post te, hominem te esse memento Look behind you, remember you're here now but you're no more than a human being!

My painting is full of metaphors. In <Memento Mori>, I wanted to talk about my younger brother. He was a person who studied day and night and worked hard at a large company. He often overworked till dawn until his health deteriorated too much, so he quit the company for a break. However, one day while taking a bath, he suddenly died of unknown symptoms.

Blue sky. On the day of my brother's funeral, hatefully the sky I saw was too blue and clear. I decided to use this blue color in my work for the first time ever. The puddle reflecting the sky is a bath water where my brother fell down. Two person are wearing clothes which my brother and I actually wore when we were young, and they are staring straight at me. The doll's house in the background shows scenes from my brother's life one by one, and the scene where the skeleton was playing a circus represents his life like an endless show. Outside the doll's house, stairs are drawn, and it was intended to show the connection of life.

This painting is about joy and oppression of love, and the pain after it's over. The beautiful red hair, which represents love comes back to me and strangle my neck.

Love makes it possible to fly into infinite layers of emotion, but it also gives you the misery and pain. I tattooed it and wrote it down on skin.

A falling bird in the form of a skull, is an expression of pain that pierces heart, eyes, and hands at the same time. White, bloodless face, and red-blooded eyes represents suppressed feelings that are about to burst. Some say, pain breaks down the body and sorrow breaks down the soul. Tattoo shows sorrow and sadness that has broken my ego.

This artwork is not like other works. I didn’t read books and studied a lot. Emotions and senses were triggered only by chance and that was the source of my inspiration. When I first saw the tattoo, it looked blue like a bruise, and the letters and contents inside it caught my eyes. Along with some aesthetic attraction, I thought that the traces of life that cannot be erased came out of the surface.

Masochistic, 53x65cm, acrylic on canvas, 2017
Masochistic, 53x65cm, acrylic on canvas, 2017

Installation View