As we’re witnessing figurative art being reinstated back on the central stage, there is a growing list of artists that are being rediscovered and re-appreciated in this new light. For Hein Koh this meant a moment of major recognition which resulted with her first painting solo show in NYC, a first international solo presentation in Paris, and now a solo show in Athens running concurrently with her first internationally presented curatorial project, a group exhibition Applied Anxiety.

“When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I took a break from my studio for a couple of months because I felt too overwhelmed to keep up with my studio practice,” Koh wrote in a statement about these two shows, explaining how deeply important this shift was. “When I finally returned, I felt like I wanted to reconnect with painting and drawing again, after primarily making sculptures for ten years.” It was at that time that of intense emotions and atmosphere of a historic uncertainty that the artist felt like her sculptures were limited, the materials were not allowing for much expression, and she needed something that would allow her to react to her surroundings and her emotional state. “Painting opened up a whole new world of psychological narratives and allowed me to explore and process the recesses of my mind,” the artist continues, admitting how her practice became sort of her therapy.

Promoting the unpopular yet painfully relatable idea of the futility of self-improvement, Koh constructs a humorous statement of self- acceptance by splitting the word “myself” in the title of the show. Starting her process from a single emotion, the artist works intuitively and quickly, capturing her vibe in the way she paints while helping herself to deal with the same feeling. This unique blend of urge, excitement, curiosity, and determination directly informs the way she approaches painting and depicts often humorous, misfortunate, yet relatable scenes from life of her main protagonist, the broccoli fem fatale. Taking the premise that painting is about the hand, heart and mind, and about looking, feeling and seeing, Koh is using this one-eyed muse to portray her own fears, concerns, or guilty pleasures, but also reveal other people’s stories too. “I think of the broccoli woman more like fiction,” the artist recently mentioned. “All fiction represents a part of the author but is not exactly the author. It’s merely a vehicle to allow the author to explore various feelings and fantasies.” And this is done both in the image itself, as well as the way she’s manipulating the paint and building the work, immersing herself into the materiality of oils or the delicacy and the darkness of charcoal.

During this entire process, Koh was interacting with her painter friends who helped her navigate her way back onto the canvas and developing a way of channeling anxiety. “I feel much of what drives our actions in life is anxiety, particularly for artists, hence the title, ” the artist mentioned in the same statement, explaining what brings all these names together under a roof of a historic Greek mansion in Athens. The full lineup of Applied Anxiety includes Gina Beavers, Anthony Cudahy, Julie Curtiss, Louis Fratino, Adam Green, Loie Hollowell, Anthony Iacono, Marcus Jahmal, Clinton King, Benjamin Kress, Austin Lee, Ann Toebbe & Robin Williams. – Sasha Bogojev