Sue Soo: Cry for the Moon

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Media Release: June, 2004. 

Imagine an idyllic world filled with ballerinas, birds, moneys, horses and flowers, where the sun always shines and people dance all day. Welcome to the joyful world of seventy-eight year old Wellington artist Sue Soo.

Cry for the Moon at the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery, 4 June – 4 July, brings together a wide selection of Sue Soo’s artworks and provides an insight into her compulsive, impassioned and vibrant art-making.

Working in a small unit in suburban Wellington, Sue’s Soo’s home doubles as her studio – it’s full of the things she has made – papier maché roosters, plaster of paris ballerinas, crocheted flowers, rugs and cushions, colourful pictures pinned from floor to ceiling. She paints on all sorts of materials including rice sacks, cardboard boxes, canvas and card, and finds inspiration in other artworks, books, newspapers and magazines.

Art historian Jill Trevelyan has been following Sue Soo’s work since some paintings which she saw displayed in the window of Soo’s Kilbirnie flat caught her eye three years ago.

“Initially I was attracted by the colour and exuberance of her art,” Trevelyan says. “Sue has a great sense of colour and there’s a real energy in her paintings. When I saw more of her work I realised that she’s created an entire world of her own in her pictures.” Trevelyan describes Soo’s work as in intriguing blend of East-meets-West.

Sue Soo began painting in 1981 after the death of her husband. A great believer in keeping herself occupied to stave off loneliness, Soo says, “When you paint you forget your loneliness. You can cry for the moon but the moon won’t come down. You have to have something to do, then you forget yourself.”

While Soo goes through phases of painting different subjects, it’s the scenes of ballerinas that she always comes back to. These dancers embody a joyful celebration of life much like the youthful, energetic seventy-eight year old who paints them. Soo insists that anyone can paint, if they only try. “Any dumb cluck can do it,” she says!

Last year Soo’s artworks were shown in several exhibitions including The Dance of Life at One Eye Gallery in Paekakariki, The Outsiders held at the Sarjeant Gallery in Wanganui and exhibitions at ROAR! Gallery in Wellington.

Sue Soo was born in China in 1926 in Pong Woo village, Poon Yue. She came to New Zealand as a war refugee in 1940 with her mother and brother, staying with relatives in Taranaki Street. In 1946 she married Ken Soo and moved to Levin where the couple had a market garden. They returned to Wellington in 1979 following Mr Soo's illness. She has five children, thirteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. (Sue Soo’s biographical details are taken from Kirsten Wong, ‘The Dance of Life’, Wellington Chinese Association Newsletter, July 2003.)

FREE PUBLIC TALK

Tutus and roosters: The world of Sue Soo

Thursday 17 June 5.30pm, City Gallery Wellington