☰pa●○pa☴ by Rae-Yen Song launches at Aspex this summer

wood papa, Rae-Yen Song. 2023.

This summer, Aspex Portsmouth will launch a major new exhibition by Glasgow-based artist, Rae-Yen Song.

☰pa●○pa☴ is Rae-Yen Song’s first solo presentation of work in the south of England and features an installation bringing together existing and new artworks. Through drawing, sculpture, costume, moving image and family collaboration, the exhibition focuses on the artist’s father, shining a light on a life that resisted colonial realities and found an alternative way of being through paths of Eastern spiritualism, science fiction, video gaming, and 1970s psychedelia. ☰pa●○pa☴ reimagines the artist’s father as a new character: a voyager from Song’s multiverse; a shape-shifting figure – part avatar, part deity – inspired by Taoist notions of continuous change.

The exhibition features a new moving image work created in collaboration with Song’s father, and using volumetric video filmed at the University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Creative and Immersive Extended Realities (CCIXR). Experimented further through gaming technologies, it depicts the artist’s father practising his Tai Chi routine, wearing a costume and mask made by Song. These garments are multi-functional, serving as both robes and armour. They simultaneously imply performance and anonymity, exposure and refuge – and are exhibited here as sanctified relics. The moving image is presented as a view through a portal – a transportation opening, which we can see but through which we cannot pass.

Visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to explore a new series of drawings, influenced by ancient Buddhist manuscripts, Yokai Manga, and illustrations from Dante’s Divine Comedy. The drawings reference 五行(wǔxíng) – the five phases in Taoist philosophy, with its five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. They are presented as five separate images – but could coalesce at any time to form a flowing circular whole, reminding us of the fundamental interconnectedness and fluidity of all things.

“Aspex Portsmouth is thrilled to be commissioning Rae-Yen Song in the artist’s very first major, solo show in the South of England. This is an ambitious installation marking a pivotal moment for the artist’s career as well as Aspex’s artistic programme. We would like to thank the support provided by the CCIXR faculty at the University of Portsmouth for enabling Song to develop a new body of work using their facilities and the Henry Moore Foundation for seeing the need for endorsing artist development.” says Ricardo Reverón Blanco, Curator and Programme Manager at Aspex Portsmouth.

☰pa●○pa☴ is on display at Aspex Portsmouth from Friday 14 July until Sunday 1 October 2023. The exhibition is free to visit.

An exhibition preview event will take place at Aspex Portsmouth on Friday 14 July 2023, 6:00pm – 8:00pm. Tickets are free and all are welcome. Artists are invited to come along to the preview event from 5:30pm, for an extra half hour of networking with peers. Tickets are free and can be booked here.