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Jeena Shin’s Stairwell Wall

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Besides having little space to move away from it in, the wall itself is an oddly awkward, lopsided shape that surprisingly, instead of being a nuisance, gives Shin an advantage.


Jeena Shin
Stairwell Project

2009 - 2011



Jeena Shin is known for her fastidious wall paintings and portable panels that feature tightly interlocking or overlapping triangular shapes, all rendered with tonally matched sets of some selected hue. They look like fractals or tangrams masked off with tape so that the edges of the painted geometrical forms have become raised.

This particular work is sited on a high wall adjacent to a staircase that provides the entrance to Auckland’s ARTSPACE. Since the project began in 2009, Shin has been working on it in occasional (and deliberately unpredictable) bursts, devising complex evanescent configurations in light tones of grey, and later adding slightly darker geometric forms on top. The underlayers are never obliterated totally because of the ridges of the edges - brought out by the light raking across them from the two skinny vertical windows facing K’ Rd.

The result is a strangely unstable tension between flickering tonal triangles or diamonds lying over faintly visible pin-lined edges of painted forms that look like glued-on sheets of angularly cut paper. The two levels work independently of each other, sometimes hovering or floating free, or often interwoven and locked together. Overall - bearing in mind it is impossible to stand back and survey the wall in its entirety - there is a sense of faceted and tumbling flat prisms spreading out across the vertical, rectangular plane like a tree of multiplying crystal slivers, sometimes in sync with the layers beneath, sometimes contrary to them.

Besides having little space to move away from it in, the wall itself is an oddly awkward, lopsided shape that surprisingly, instead of being a nuisance, gives Shin an advantage. Its very eccentricity, with two very different viewing spots at top and bottom - and the diagonal stairs in between - allows her to create a striking downward movement with paler but modulated negative forms. A more obvious and more exciting dynamic appears here than with conventional rectangular formats. ‘Dead’ non gallery spaces such as this may be where her talent shines most.

The images above are not much help unless you have a very clean computer screen which is large. The tones on the wall are very subtle.

John Hurrell

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