Beyond the Canvas: Meet Dahae Song

Photo by: Hanna Kim

Photo by: Hanna Kim

For the past few months, the Hustle has been transformed by the works Dahae Song - a South Korean, Toronto based interdisciplinary artist. In celebration of her time here at 318 Queen Street, our local social storyteller Kyla sat down with Dahae to learn more about her journey beyond the canvas.

I’m constantly learning. This is just me, trying to figure out how I see the world.

K: Your style is so distinctive Dahae, where did it all start for you?

I had a style, but it wasn't my own. I had a style that was distinctive, but i wasn't connected to it as a visual language. I was obsessed with finding my visual language, and my way of communicating with the world. I went through so many phases - painting, and then not painting for two years. I was doing visual work, and then printing making - trying so many different ways to find my visual language, while also finding a process that was very very therapeutic for me.

After doing all that searching, through all these different mediums painting or printing making and forms of visual art - I think through the process I learned from each of them. This is who am I now - a combination of all of those different forms of art. It was a very natural progression.

Especially with this series (How to Fill a Void) -  I learn as I paint. The whole thing is about the process of making. All of these works, I don't like...plan it out before doing them. I just stand in front of my canvases, and I I learn as I go. I interact with the surface and paint, as I go. I'm constantly earning. For me, painting is a way of learning about the world. Processing things that I'm concerned, and developing my thoughts. I do that all through my painting. This is just me trying to figure out how I see the world. 


What I’ve always wanted, is a place that I can call a home.

K: Where do you see yourself in the next year? In the next five years? In other words, what are you working towards?

There's nothing that I can think of, in terms of time like that. But there are things that I'm working towards. So many things.

One is, towards the end of my career when I've reached a point of being financially successful - I've always wanted to create a centre, an art center/artist residency a safe space for people with mental disabilities and mental health. I've always wanted a space like that - since I was young. That's something that I'm always going to be working towards. 

In other terms, I have SO many installation ideas. So many performance ideas that I want to do. So many. But I'm very patient with it. I'm not done painting yet. I'm not done creating these. So, I'm just chillin on that idea. There's so many things things.

K: When you're referring to a safe space to create, what does that mean to you?

What I've always wanted, is a place that I can call a home. A space to feeling up. (Growing up) My own home wasn't a home, it didn't feel like home for me. Sometimes whatever school you're in, or whatever environemnt you're in can feel so foreign for so many people.I just want to create a space where you can come and yourself. You don't have to come and paint in your studio. You can to people, and not do anything. Sit on the floor. Whatever you need to do. Come do it.

K: What would you say home is for you?

For me now, my art is my home. The reason why there's so many of these paintings and why I keep making them is because like, I'm very disassociated with a lot of things. So for me, it's the only place that I can really feel connected to is my art. I want to fill the whole world with my art. That's why it's called How to Fill a Void It's like that internal void, but also the external feelings that I get.

Like, in this space (the hustle) I am so comfortable right now. I could call this my home. I belong here. 

K: Have you always been in touch with your emotions? 

I've always been very emotional. But I've also refused to accept them for a long time. Cause sometimes they are just so much to carry. Sometimes they just felt so heavy. Sometimes, it was just too much for me to carry, that I would just ignore it. You know, you can block out feeling. It becomes to normal we you do it for such a long time. You even lose your connection with your own self. Cause you're constantly, not like lying to yourself - but you're redirecting your emotions. 

I realized that I can't be an artist and reject my emotions. The only thing that is truly mine that I can call my own are my thoughts and my feelings. My body isn't really mine. It's a physical thing. My art, even though its mine - it can get sold, it can get destroyed, its not truly mine. The only thing that I can completely call my own is my feelings and my thoughts. So, I started to really embrace that, to become really whole as a person.

This is what happens when I'm painting. Accepting, feeling, processing. 

I feel like these pieces are all parts of me. Dimensions of me, and myself and experiences. That's why it's installed this way. For me, each painting can stand alone as a piece. But,'s this collection of things. How they're self reflective of each other. 

Check out 'How to Fill A Void' in the Hustle at 318 Queen Street until January 31st. Thank you to The Drake Hotel and Ashley Mulvihill who we partnered with to curate this series.

Visit Dahae's website and catch her Feb 23 - 26 at the Artist Project UNTAPPED Emerging Artists Competition.