For many artists exploring themes of race and identity, the notion of bodily space is key to explore. This is the case for the New York-based artist Sasha Gordon, whose biracial identity is wrapped up in the idea of what it means to be Polish and Korean. The artist delves into the symbolism of identity throughout her emphatic hyperreal paintings; explaining how, “being Korean and Polish was always a strange concept for me because I felt as though I’m forced to identify more with one than another”, the artist tells It’s Nice That.
Growing up in a mainly white and conservative community, Sasha “began to reclaim [her] identity” when she entered a new and more diverse schooling environment. Surrounded by more people who were also of east Asian ethnicity, the artist’s work ventures into the concept of acceptance. More specifically, Sasha adds, “accepting myself as an east Asian body and how much beauty we hold.”
Sasha’s work centres on the representation of east Asian women. Her hyperreal style of painting mirrors the starkness of an overblown photograph with hints of white glare punctuating skin tones with a plastic-like effect. She goes on to say, “I also portray the sexualisation and objectification of Asian women and this idea of us being submissive, weak and quiet.” She offers the arts audience an alternative view of realistic painting that is heavily doused in Eurocentric patriarchy. “Most paintings that I’ve seen and learned about are all Westernised, with white European women or men as the subject.” Whereas in Sasha’s paintings she tells a story from a different perspective of womanhood, despite the fact that she’s situated in the depths of Western society.
Painting is a cathartic process for Sasha. Many of her pieces illustrate a scene where she felt “most vulnerable and dissociative.” Her paintings reach into painful parts of her psyche that touch upon mental illness and issues with the artist’s body image, which is seen through triggering imagery such as car accidents and nudity. The paintings evoke loneliness despite the fact that there are often multiple characters interacting with each other. Such characters seem to live on different planes or dimensions; they are painted in different styles and at varying proportions to align their visual evocation with Sasha’s feelings of dissociation and disillusionment.
Though “it can painful to revisit such moments” for all the world to see, the paintings fundamentally allow her to “learn more about [her] mind and self, more than [she] could have if she had just ignored her trauma”. As for her audience, it is an emotional and enlightening experience to view her work. Each element within her paintings stirs intrigue and empathy towards the sad-looking subjects. Through dreamlike compositions, her work is beguilingly beautiful and summons the old masters of surrealism mixed with the stark emotion of candid portrait photography. Not only with her vivid display of emotion, but also through her technical ability to transport the viewer into a painting, Sasha presents herself as an emerging artist that is certainly one to keep an eye on.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.