Elle Chae’s practice deals with the meaning of home as a vital, yet transitory place, which is defined by its occupants and their ordinary interactions. Her focus has been increasingly on exploring the concept of non-deliberate relational community structures, particularly in terms of how individuals interact with each other and their environment. Chae considers painting’s expressive nature as a tool to invent and re-invent apprehension-filled narratives within the local environment.
In “Must Be the Neighbours”, Chae’s focus shifts to the exterior of the home as she notices unwanted, curb-side objects during daily neighbourhood walks with her toddler. Fascinated by a loss of interest in these items, Chae observes that a change in their placement to the exterior of the home immediately transforms belongings, influenced by the dweller’s memory and personality, into meaningless things. Thus, she questions the artificial and fragile boundary between the public and private spheres. Regardless of the intention, she realizes how relocation can drastically reshape the collective view and atmosphere of any environment. As a contribution to this interplay, she recreates her own neighbourhood in this work, inviting viewers to connect with the familiar, yet foreign, urban landscapes.
The process involved documenting changes around her neighbourhood, focusing on the daily walks to her studio in her community of Vanier, Ottawa. Fluctuations were as small as the shifting of leaves shuffled by passersby on the street to a house disappearing after a fire. She often replaced objects and persons from one place onto different scenes or combines the same scenes in different times; resulting in a sense of constant and accelerated change.
Chae continues to explore different ways of considering the mark-making process, embodying different degrees of physicality and intensity. This reflects the wide range of techniques used to accentuate the material presence of oil paint and the scalable impact of colours and tones on the viewers’ sensory systems. Chae often overlays different scenes on one pictorial plane to create a psychological space that highlights painting as a place for contemplation where meaning is formed based on interpretation, synthesized experience, context and inventiveness on the part of the viewer and the artist.