Jeena Shin, Artspace Stairwell Project (1973-) 2009-2011

On arriving as Director in late 2008 as Director, Emma Bugden commissioned Auckland artist Jeena Shin to undertake a project that would unfurl over three years, or the duration of Bugden’s directorship. Shin’s project was to occupy and transform the Artspace stairwell, a functional space designed for movement, yet at the same time a highly sculptural and spatial environment.

The brief to Shin was open ended—allowing for possibilities rather than certainties, and providing her with a test space in which she could return again and again to rework, as one might utlise a studio or workshop. The artist could work as frequently or infrequently as she wished, and the end point of the work was to be determined by Shin as the project progressed.

Jeena Shin’s long-term engagement with the Stairwell generated an in-depth response to site that included an acknowledgement of the space’s architectural history, which dates back to the 1970’s, and the building’s origins as the Newton Post Office. As such the project has been both revelatory; seeking as it does to lay bare some of the original architectural attributes, and accumulative as Shin works over a sustained period of time building up her trademark geometric planes in fresh, site-specific configurations.

Titled Artspace Stairwell Project (1973-) 2009-2011, the work in progress (and process) was conceived as a way of drawing attention to what is essentially a transitional space between the outside world beyond the stairwell (and that peeks in through the windows) and the gallery above.

This notion of inside and outside, fold and unfold is indelibly marked within Shin’s abstraction, where an exploration of the ambiguities of spatial properties by way of finely nuanced colour gradations, geometric symmetry/asymmetry and layering is played out. It is by unsettling or toying with our perceptions of these traditionally conceived binary states that Shin’s Stairwell Project hints towards the permeability of space and the structures within it. Shin utilises not only the existing and altered structures but the natural properties of light spilling in through the windows to lend additional resonance, making each visit an experience of subtle perceptual change.

In March 2011 the third and final phase of the project is to be unveiled. This component sees Shin work with a wall hitherto untouched by the artist’s project, completing the activation of the space.

Jeena Shin was born in Korea in 1973, and graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts from RMIT, Melbourne, in 2001, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Auckland in 1997. Her work has been included in such group exhibitions as Prospect 2007: New Art New Zealand, City Gallery Wellington, SNO23, Sydney Non Objective, Sydney and Respirator, Conical Gallery, Melbourne. She has upcoming solo exhibition projects at CCNOA in Brussels. Jeena Shin is represented by Two Rooms Gallery, Auckland.


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