Che Jen

Che Jen & Kenji Kirata

"Reverberations" “Reverberations” is an exhibition featuring new works by Che Jen and Kenji Hirata, both members of the infamous “Barnstormers.”

Che Jen is a Brooklyn-based painter from South Korea, who was raised in Brooklyn.  Growing up in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side in the 1970s “defined the visual abstractions that are incorporated into my being and permeates my personality and my work.”  Her newest works are a reflection of her subconsciousness, a manifestation of the process in which ideas are born.  Che Jen has shown around the world in Milan, London, Tokyo and all over the United States, and has been featured in many publications.

Kenji Hirata is a New York-based painter from Nagasaki, Japan.  His works are influenced by the Buddhist idea that “emptiness is everything eternal.”  In his paintings, he fuses together the five natural elements of water, fire, metal, wood and soil, creating compositions that are dense, yet have open space.  Hirata is inspired by nature, and his vibrant pieces reference Jamaican dance hall sound systems, sci-fi futurism, billboards and hand painted signage of South East Asia.  From public murals, small canvases and animated works for film, Kenji Hirata is an innovative member of the contemporary art and film community.

Behind the Brush: Che Jen


 I recently had the pleasure of spending a week with Che Jen, one member of the art duo currently presenting "Reverberations” at FIFTY24SF. Che Jen is an admittedly an abstract painter. What is an "admittedly abstract painter"?  It means that Che Jen chases the abstract.  She is an enigma, an exception to the rule. Singled out as a child to be a painter, Che Jen's life not is typical, nor are her paintings. Che Jen is as slick as the graceful and piercing line-work she uses to cut through a sea of typical.

She told me once that her paintings had to move, describing the feeling as "similar to catching that perfect line when you surf." Jen paints as if she is carving through stagnant energy.  Though she does admit, “Sometimes you don’t get to ride the wave as fluidly as you want, you get many thrashings before you even ride one out – I would imagine that’s how it would feel. I don’t know I never surfed."

I asked her what she's thinking about while holding the brush, and she told me that she was just being.  She was being every moment, every thought and life she had ever lived and she simply let her brush translate the ephemeral, to the concrete.

 “Painting is a lot of breathing out my thoughts and working through my words.  Trying to recall an experience and working that out on the wall.”  She laughed a lot, and told stories about her life while she painted the gallery walls. Watching was comforting and hypnotizing; you got lost in how easy she made it look.

Che Jen's paintings, though not landscapes or portraits, tell stories,  they tell the story of a woman who grew up in the epicenter of the hip hop and graffiti revolution. They tell they story of what it's like to cut through the b.s with grace and force.  Avid collectors of her work know they are not simply collecting a piece of beautiful art but,  a piece of a beautiful life. 

I wondered if her father had singled her out because he saw her gift long before she would ever grasp it... I asked her if she looked back on her classical training and was now grateful for where it led her.  She said that it was at times a hard road to accept but it has brought her to a place in life that is as unique and complex as she is, and for that she is grateful.