In haunting paintings and mixed-media works, SoHyun Bae visualizes themes and figures traditionally suppressed in Korean culture. Often done in a muted palette of white, gray, and beige, her surfaces suggest forms while also alluding to latent narratives and alternate histories. Bae is particularly influenced by the lack of female portraiture in the Josun Dynasty (1392–1910), a period in which many of the country’s mores and much of its culture developed. Many of her works offer a belated corrective to its absence of female representation by depicting women or referring to traditionally female Korean handicrafts.
In her Nature of Water series we see a continuation of the Wrapped Shards series, which is inspired by the Jewish mystical understanding of why we have suffering in this world. It is an exploration of tzimtum, the “Mystery of the Breaking of the Vessels.” In the Nature of Water series, Bae continues to examine the precariousness and fragility of life and the strength in vulnerability through depicting shards found in our natural world. Both series reflect the influence of Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate and mentor to Bae who introduced her to the Jewish mystical thought, providing a profound impact on her vision as an artist.