Sally J. Han (b. 1993 Shenyang, China) is a painter based in New York, NY. Sally received her MFA from New York Academy of Art in 2019, and BFA from School of Visual Arts in 2016. Han’s work has been shown at Fortnight Institute, New York, NY; Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, New York, NY and Los Angeles, CA; Make Room, Los Angeles, CA; Art & Newport Foundation, Newport, Rhode Island; FLAG Art Foundation, New York, NY; and more.
THAT: Tell us about your practice.
SH: I like to draw with brushes, on paper mounted on a wood panel. I have tried different surfaces like canvas, linen, paper, and plain wood but I ended up mounting paper on wood panels and started working with acrylic paints. I’m picky.
THAT: You’ve spoken about how your works are autobiographical in nature — how do you decide what moments or parts of your life to capture?
SH: I think they always come to me naturally. The more I intentionally put meanings to a specific moment, the more I lose interest in painting in them.
THAT: Birds are a motif that has come up in a number of works — what do they represent to you?
SH: They don’t necessarily represent anything in my pictures. I love watching and observing their thoughts. Not just the birds, I love to observe and think about any objects in general, and I sometimes am amazed by how little details can impact much.
THAT: Books are also a recurring feature in your works - do you draw inspiration from any particular authors or types of literature?
SH: I’m a very slow reader because if there is a sentence or page I like, I’d read it over and over. It takes me forever to finish reading one book. As of right now, I am drawn to “Woman in the dunes” by Kobo Abe.
THAT: You’ve mentioned that you “like to work in the mystery of normality” — can you talk a little about what you mean by that?
SH: I think the definition of normality is very vague to me and I find interest in what “normal” is.
THAT: Can you tell us a little bit about the title of your latest show at Fortnight Institute, "Lost and Found”?
SH: It just sounds optimistic to me, strangely. I also speak fluent Mandarin and Korean, but when I heard this word in English, it gives me a different vision of the meaning of the words. And also, my working process is just like the title “Lost and Found”, I often am lost at first, and try to find out what are the answers to the picture I am making.
THAT: The diaristic aspect of your practice came to life through several visual references like the restaurant settings, Frida Kahlo's painting reference, or the tabby cat you used to have. What is your approach to putting together these references into your work?
SH: Often my referential point is not just of the present, it is often from the compartmentalized way our mind works. As an example, reference to the memory of things I’ve seen in the past and the process of painting allows me to bring all those moments together in any given picture.
THAT: What's next for you?
SH: Fortnight Institute and I are currently in the process of making my first art book which will be published within the next year. Please stay tuned :)
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