“Every little thing matters and every emotion is communicated with the figure I’m painting,” says California artist Soey Milk of her figurative female paintings and drawings. Milk spends a significant amount of time with each piece, causing it to evolve as the artist allows her experiences, visceral feelings and Korean heritage to inform the imagery. “Looking back at previous work, I can tell exactly what stage of thought I was in,” says Milk, whose paintings act as visual diary entries. “Every piece has a different memory and marks a specific part of my life.”
“Kiokada,” the title of the artist’s upcoming exhibition, is a phonetic Korean translation of the phrase, “to remember.” Whether a narrative from one of Milk’s pieces is traceable or remains mysterious to the viewer, we can sense the artist’s imparted emotions and cultivate a nostalgic connection with her enchanting female figures and abstract imagery. While the meanings behind most works are deeply intuitive and often unexplainable, others have a clearer message. “Flowers for the Asleep,” for example, is a 20×16” oil painting infused with crushed fool’s gold that glimmers on the canvas. Three luminous flowers blossom in different directions as they hover over the hands of an absent figure. The left hand solemnly rests over the right, signifying a respectful Korean gesture used when bowing to an ancestor’s grave. The blooms represent the artist’s deceased grandparents and the placement of the hands honors their memory, imparting a sense of longing for the lost and marking a distinct emotional phase from the artist’s life.
While Milk’s paintings are typically abstract in composition, her graphite studies are meticulously rendered as the artist uses them as references for later paintings. Milk’s fantastical oils are aflutter with pattern, color and texture that stem from a highly refined idea or image that is mapped out in her drawings. This transition from precision to abstraction is evident in Milk’s exhibition with “Andamiro” (right) and “Maji” (below), as well as with “Study for Untitled” and “Untitled.” The juxtaposition of chaos and order in Milk’s body of work is stimulating for artist and viewer as we encounter recurring images from renewed perspectives.
Playful yet contemplative, Milk’s paintings and drawings invite the viewer to consider the delicacy, ferocity and mystery of the feminine. Preview her exhibition and browse available work here, and meet the artist during the opening reception of “Kiokada” on Friday, May 26th from 5-7pm. The show will be on display at the gallery through June 24th.