We live in frightening times, and these are frightening paintings. "The Attack," a work of harrowing
beauty, elicits the kind of visceral fear that in the movies it takes an Alfred Hitchcock to achieve.
"The Birds" (1963) is a film that collides the symbolic and the literal with devastating intensity. A similar chilling fusion of allegory and real present horror pervades "La Peste" (1947) by Albert Camus, where
the plague is at once a metaphor for fascism and a credibly described narrative of
compelling immediacy.

Bae's paintings take their motif from an actual event witnessed whose deeper meaning resonated instantaneously inside her – a moment of epiphany. In Bologna one day, very suddenly, a flock of black birds descended en masse upon the persimmon tree outside her studio, mercillesly devouring its fruit.

"The Attack" (2008) captures the cruel contrast of bright and gloomy, of luminous fruit and the thuggish feathered agents of destruction. Her birds are mean, greedy little machines. Her fruits are effulgent but fragile wonders of nature. The birds have a menacing, metallic sheen that blocks out the orange glow
that is the painting's ground.

In "Luscious Fruit" (2008) the light to dark ratio is reversed, as an opulent orange predominates and the birds are reduced to mere shadows and fragments. But such is the nature of terror that the merest hint
of its presence, or possibility, is enough to undermine all that the deep, rich color offers in terms of
prosperity, plenty, the pleasures of the peace. In "La Quercia" it is back to black. This time it is the flight paths, rather than the birds themselves, that negate the picture surface with strident, martial zigzags.
The persimons are glimpses of hope caught through these grim slats.

The electrifying linear structure these black lines form in this painting brings to mind the American
Abstract Expressionist Franz Kline, as well, of course, as Asian calligraphy. A mix such as this of
western and Asian visual referents frequently recurrs in Bae's work. Not that east and west need be thought of in oppositional terms, the geographical and cultural diversity is symptomatic of other dichotomies in her work: between decorative abstraction and symbolic representation, as well as phenomenological dualities such as depth and flatness, beauty and fear.

Her color can be what is what is called in French "jolie-laid," a kind of ugly-beautiful mix of vibrantly
exotic and sickly synthetic, as in the oddly emulsified bamboo-shoot like forms in "Turquoise Winter" (2008) or the orange-veined encrustations of blue and purple in "Crisp Winter" (2008). Above all,
however, it is the almost manichean contrast of light, vibrant color and enervating, remorseless
non-color of her black and gray forms, like the bird held up by human hands in "Fledgling" (2008)
against the orange ground with its delicate, stylized green shoots.

Disturbing though Bae's paintings can be, they can nonetheless impart surprising reserves of humor, delicacy and whimsy. There is an almost balletic, somersault quality to the the antics of the birds in
"PB Geometry" (2008) as our feathered friends circumnavigate the red on red orbs, while the birds of
"Dormant Wings" (2007) seem sated on their stolen fruit and have been transformed from pirates to satisfied burghers as they flap around.

These are frightening paintings, but they are also sensuous, intriguing, and in the case of a work like "Offering" (2007) enigmatic and alluring paintings as well. It is this kind of cocktail of beauty, intrigue
and fear that philosophers have termed the sublime.

David Cohen