‘I found that I could say things with colours and shapes that I couldn’t say in any other way – things that I had no words for.’ - Georgia O’Keefe
‘I don’t think I’ve gone anywhere. It’s all with me. Sort of packed in the suitcase. Only, the suitcase gets bigger.’ - Joan Mitchell
Come out and play with me, toad!, 2020
Oil on canvas, 240 x 185 cm £18,500
Ceviga (born 1960, South Korea) is a nomadic artist who finds refuge in her own body wherever that may be and makes art to nourish her soul and keep the spirits that haunt her at bay. Like Yayoi Kusama, Ceviga moved to New York from East Asia when she was a young woman with very little financial resources and without knowing a word of English. Suffering from hallucinations that prevented her from taking any sort of public transport, Ceviga subsisted on ramen noodles and coffee for a number of years as she was forced to spend all of her money on taxis while painting with used coffee grounds.
Like Kusama, Ceviga sees her work as an artist as a type of medicine, a salve to the wounds of being an Asian woman in the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy we call ‘society’ or ‘culture’. Continuing her journey around the world, she spent over a decade in Copenhagen from 1999 and then moved to London in 2017 to pursue a Master’s Degree in Fine Art at the Chelsea College of Arts as a mature student. Ceviga now keeps a studio in Korea that she calls a ‘temporary camp’, suggesting a space of creative expression that she can come and go to as her ‘body house’ circumnavigates the globe.
Awakening Clouds, 2020
Oil on canvas, 240 x 185 cm. £18,500
Ceviga (née Kyungok Paik and often referred to as Ceviga Frahm) is an artist name that was bestowed upon her by her late husband in an effort to brand her with a name with the same number of syllables as Damien Hirst. Coincidentally, this new moniker translates from Korean to English as ‘Ce’ – power, world; ‘Vi’ – flying, healing; ‘Ga’ – beauty, house, family, as the artistic output of Ceviga has all of these qualities with the artist herself becoming the ‘house’ or ‘powerhouse’, whose body is the vessel containing of all of this healing beauty that Ceviga gives birth to in her work.
Ceviga’s paintings begin with a dot that the artist likens to an embryo in a woman’s womb as ‘a human is only a dot in the womb of the universe’, but this speck of paint is transformed into lines and forms that come from the deepest strata of the artist’s subconscious. Artistic creation for Ceviga is not unlike an archaeologist rescuing a priceless relic from an ancient civilisation buried beneath layers and layers of rubble. But Ceviga is excavating her interior psyche to produce an abstract painting brimming with dynamic washes of colour made with both her fingers and paintbrushes on a relatively flat surface plane.
Green Blood, 2020
Oil on canvas, 240 x 185 cm. 18,500
The brushstrokes build up into more solid forms of monochromatic colour that are embedded between dancing lines of pigment drawn from an uninhibited, daring colour palette. Reminiscent of the work of a young Joan Mitchell, Ceviga’s dramatic, lushly painted works possess an active, gestural quality that transcends language and representation.
Ceviga’s creative process is subject to exacting standards that the artist sets for herself. Her works are produced as a series, but she works on one canvas at a time, focusing exclusively for days at a time on the same canvas while listening to the same music at the same volume during that entire period.
Banana Fly, 2020
Oil on canvas, 165 x 140. £14,500
Often not stopping to eat or sleep, Ceviga works in an instinctual, sentient manner, letting her hand and chromatic choices be guided by what the artist calls ‘the spirits of her soul’, using all six of her senses to weave together what Ceviga sees as ‘a tapestry of different coloured threads’ with the warp and weft threads being the lines and forms the artist employs to resolve the painting.
The trademarks of Ceviga’s oeuvre are the lyrical brushstrokes and springing shapes that afford the viewer a window into the artist’s psyche as well as the opportunity to dive deep into their own inner worlds. The artist’s mark-making could even be considered a form of automatism – not unlike that used by the world’s first abstract artist Hilma af Klint - as Ceviga channels her own internal spirits.
The lady who touched me, 2020
Oil on canvas, 165 x 140 cm £14,500
For her most recent series of work, ‘Home’ (2020), Ceviga relocated from South Korea to an empty family home in North London for three months, filling every square inch of every wall with paintings, of all scales made from oil and acrylic on canvas. According to the artist, ‘home is an overarching concept, harmoniously integrating body, mind and soul’.
As Louise Bourgeois described her own body as a house of several stories, Ceviga, a nomad at heart, does not require a house made of bricks and mortar as her body houses everything she needs for sustenance - her thoughts and spirit - allowing her the freedom to conceive paintings that, in the artist’s own words, are ‘at the intersection of her own imagination and sensorial experience of the outer world’.
- Marcelle Joseph
Searching for pepper, 2020
Oil on canvas, 150 x 115 cm. £11,000
Marcelle Joseph is an American independent curator based in London. In 2011, Joseph founded Marcelle Joseph Projects, a nomadic curatorial platform that has produced 38 exhibitions in the UK and the rest of Europe, featuring the work of over 200 international artists. Joseph has an academic specialization in feminist art practice after completing an MA in Art History with Distinction from Birkbeck, University of London.