Solo from the Soul

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:02

A transplant from California brings her paintings to the Riverside library

Upper West Side About 25 years ago, painter Pauline Yun left her native Los Angeles for New York, taking memories of California sunshine, sandy beaches and optimism along with her for artistic inspiration.

"I was attracted to New York because I thought I could have a creative life here," Yun said. "I knew that was what would really get my fire going."

Now the West Coast transplant, who's lived and worked in the same cozy apartment on the Upper West Side since she first moved from L.A., will introduce her neighbors to her work in her first solo show in New York. "Improvisations," her collection of abstract oil paintings, opens at the Riverside Branch of the New York Public Library (127 Amsterdam Ave. at 65th Street) on April 3.

"I feel very thrilled and happy that it can happen in my very own neighborhood," Yun said.

When she first arrived in New York, Yun considered fashion design, but found the work too commercial. She returned to school to study painting, earning her BFA and MFA at Hunter College, and has steadily shown her work as part of group shows in downtown galleries, but she's struggled to define her work in commercial terms.

"It took me a long time to figure out what it is my painting is about," Yun said from her home studio near Central Park. "Having a show made me realize that improvisation as a practice is really kind of the string that ties everything together from the beginning until now in my work."

Yun studied art history at the University of California, Berkeley, and enjoys the French impressionists, abstract expressionism, Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard. She never approaches a blank canvas with an eye on the finish line, but is guided by her impulses when painting, and strives for spontaneity.

"I try to keep my mind as minimal as possible and as empty as possible," she said. Her improvisational approach means she won't know how a painting will look until she's done.

"They're all kind of mysterious in that sense," she said.

Yun, 49, has rosy cheeks and a dusting of freckles, and often temps as an executive assistant. She meditates, which helps her rid her mind of extraneous thoughts. She also practices 7-ray healing, a form of energy healing that involves curing physical and emotional ailments by channeling energy through her hands. But she also attempts to spread positivity through her art.

"I see these as healing objects," Yun said about her pieces. "I feel they're coming from my heart and soul and they contain the energy that is me."

In a nod to her days in California, she evokes natural elements in her work, and some of her most whimsical pieces evoke exploding floral bouquets with a rain of confetti-like petals. Yun will exhibit both new and old work in her show, including "Goofman," a frenetic scrawl of deep reds, pinks and blues layered over well-blended blocks of green and yellow, which Yun calls "a goofy dance."

"I always want to be in touch with the child in me," she said. She resists repetition, and experiments with multiple techniques, including finger-painting with a gloved hand. Sometimes she draws directly on the canvas with a tube of paint, or blots the wet surface with wax paper. Often, Yun employs multiple techniques in one painting, like in "Empress," a mostly muted abstraction with pops of bright green.

"It's not about being pretty, smooth and polished," she said. "I want to get to a more raw place."

Yun likens herself to a "monk in Manhattan," seeking to live in the moment and spread joy to others, and "Improvisations" is an extension of that mission.