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Beyond The Surface: Thoughts on New Paintings of Gi-Ok Jeon

BEYOND THE SURFACE: THOUGHTS ON NEW PAINTINGS OF GI-OK JEON
By Jeong-ok Jeon (art consultant)
Artist: Gi-ok Jeon

Contemporary art, regardless of its form, is intrinsically conceptual. Beyond the physical surface of an artwork lie the artist’s thoughts and ideas, further implicating that contemporary art is to be read (or understood) rather than to be looked at (or enjoyed). Appreciating contemporary art requires one to dismantle the hidden meaning of the work. This task is further convoluted when the painting is abstract, and the visual language of the piece conflicts with the symbolic meaning conveyed by the artist.

Gi-ok Jeon’s new series of paintings exemplify the perplexity between the familiarity of the painting (a popular art genre throughout history) and the complexity of contemporary art. In her work, the inner voice is profound and the message is sincere. The aesthetic beauty and sensual pleasure that one captures immediately is not the pivotal point but merely a first impression. Ambiguous visual texts and autobiographic symbols hover around the surface, enticing the audience into an abyss beyond the screen. Her works are spontaneous yet systematic, sensible yet spiritual, unconscious yet reasonable: a fascinating festival of contradictions.

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On Pulse

ON PULSE
By Hyunjin Shin
Artist: Michael Yuen

As I walked in the dark artist’s studio, my first greeting was a small dim blue light pulsating and flowing along the strip of a crack in the floor as if it was an organism that could whisper. Then I started hearing a sound that consisted of low rumbles and high whistling sounds. Sound is a corporal medium. It felt like something gentle and soft in that pitch-black air where, in which, the light had inhabited. There were only one or two people permitted in the room at a time, and this intimacy allowed the audience to be fully saturated by the physical air of light and sound. When the sound is starting to be felt like it is repeating, Yuen’s audience is then left reminiscing his installation’s gentle impact. It is, also then, when the experience of his work transcends into the second phase, for the audience, mixing with the sensations already imbedded in the corners of each of their minds. The audience (which I was) may be drifting away and coming back for the more physical presence of the work.

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Embarrassment and Address

EMBARRASSMENT AND ADDRESS
By Brian Willems
Artist: Mina Cheon

Dollhouses first became popular in 17th century Western Europe. One of the most famous patrons of dollhouses at the time was Petronella Oortman of Amsterdam. If you go to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam you can see some of her collection. Painted large upon the wall of the exhibition room, in English and Dutch, you learn that Oortman spent from 20,000 to 30,000 guilders at a time on the houses and their furniture, a price which could have purchased a real house on one of Amsterdam’s canals. This information is presented as shocking, and Oortman as wasteful. This is because dolls are not real, so they cannot appreciate or be comforted by their houses. Such devotion and extravagance lavished by the living on the non-living, however beautiful the outcome may be, is embarrassing. Embarrassing because care is given to that which is considered not to deserve it — the empty husks of dolls. While embarrassment is usually thought of as a negative concept, in the artwork(s) of Mina Cheon’s exhibition Addressing Dolls it is a positive, strong and emancipating emotion. This is because embarrassment comes from being on unfamiliar ground. It comes from being subversively open to what is usually considered unimportant or impossible. Addressing Dolls foregrounds this unfamiliar ground by shining light on familiar tropes which have been manipulated within the thrust for Westernization in South Korean culture. In this sense the artwork functions in two ways: to focus our attention on the ways different kinds of dolls have been manipulated in Korean culture, and to highlight our own relationship to what is considered other than ourselves.

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Animated Myths For The New Millennium

ANIMATED MYTHS FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM
By Juan Antonio Alvarez Reyes
Artist: Hye Rim Lee

The history of animation is already a hundred years old, and we could even say that it is a media that pre-dates cinema, but starts out on its great pathway along side it. If different “machines” and creations were soon able to give movement to drawings and images and end up providing what was called “optical theater”, the discovery of the photogram to photogram projection technique, together with simple tricks using the film and recording and projection devices, made emergence easier for a great evolution of a media and of a genre that has always had one foot anchored in the cinematic and entertainment industry and the other in artistic and avant-garde productions. Even though we traditionally associate animation with Walt Disney and his empire (although Japanese Anime is also present) animation has a vast history that has been linked to the artistic and visual avant-garde, making up perhaps one of the last media to be explored on the path to assimilation that modern art and museums have started out on decades ago, firstly with photography and then with cinema.

In a world dominated by visual culture development of specific computer programs has made expansion and use of this media extremely easy for a number of artists who, raised in the entertainment industry (based firstly on animation) and then educated with videogames, use the tools currently available for narrating today’s stories. Animation brings reality down a few notches, even though it doesn’t eliminate it totally, which then opens the door to fiction, in each and every one of its variants. Animation has also recently expanded into new territories. Therefore it should not be unexpected that it has also come into the artistic scene. This is due to several things: The first one has to do with the history of animation, spread over more than one hundred years, and its approximations to avant-garde art and experimental cinema during different periods of the twentieth century. During different times of the twentieth century and in different places in the World there have been important animators who have had a clear-cut experimental and avant-garde vocation. Therefore there is a historic tradition that has marked this close relationship between visual arts and animation. On the other hand is the tight link with cinema and, above all, with some of the innovative experiences born in this field. So then it is not rare, at a time such as ours, in which screens (public cinema) would take over today’s museums and art centers, the media that has our attention also occupies an important part of them. During the last decade, together with cinema, an authentic boom of an old media has occurred due to the fact that it is closely and intimately related: drawing has been profusely used, exhibited and reclaimed. So, how do we combine them? How do we bring video-cinema and drawing together? Well, the answer seems logical and simple: by using “animated drawing”.

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Artist Statement – Eric De Leon Zamuco

ARTIST STATEMENT
By Eric De Leon Zamuco
Artist: Eric Zamuco

Having relocated from the Philippines to the United States in 2005, my body of work has been about filtering the unfamiliar in my own displaced experience and being part of the Filipino Diaspora. My subject matter runs the gamut from notions about home, spirituality, identity, post-colonial narratives, to the need for reclamation of space.

Sacred Raiment is a piece that drew inspiration from the Filipino-Missouri connection in the St Louis World’s Fair of 1904. After being annexed then as a new American colony, a large group of Filipinos, enticed by economic opportunity were brought over and exhibited in human dioramas. One specific indigenous group was forced to sacrifice a dog and to eat it daily, giving birth to the “dogeater” derogatory name. Hence, I started manipulating rawhide dogtreats and chips and formed them into a fragmented coat, buttons, a top hat, alluding to the “Christian decorum” that the scantily clad natives had to wear. This is a shrine to a bizarre show of colonial imperialism and yet also as a symbol of my own people’s monetary motivations parallel to my own materialistic intentions of migration.

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Paris Artseen

PARIS ARTSEEN
By Jennifer K. Dick
Artist: Seulgi Lee

The lines between visual and performance arts has been growing blurrier these past years, especially when one examines cutting edge explorations such as those by Seulgi Lee, a South Korean artist living in Paris for the past 17 years. After completing her degree at an arts high school in Seoul, Lee came to France to study at the Beaux Arts in Paris. An admirer of Rodin and Claudel, as well as work by Renoir, Lee began her studies at the Beaux Arts in a mosaic studio. For Lee, deciding to participate in this workshop was part of a realization that one could use decorative arts techniques in fine arts work. Thus began a series of transformations towards her own interdisciplinary artistic practice. In her third year at the Beaux Arts, Lee met Jean-Luc Vilmouth who’d just begun teaching in the sculpture studio. “I showed him pictures of garbage cans and other things, things I wasn’t willing to show anyone else, and he made me realize art could be made out of nothing or anything.” Most of the students in Vilmouth’s group –which Lee became a part of– were doing installation and mixed performance pieces at the time, a direction Lee’s work would take.

Given these foundations, one sees how the work Lee has been showing over the past decade here in Paris and in Seoul borrows from the decorative arts in its bright colourings and textures; it is playful, almost giddy at times. For example, a 2005 exhibition at Miss China Beauty Room in Paris showed a sock tree called “weeping willow” alongside a series of almost naïve drawings of single objects floating mid-page. Her installation piece “c” from a show at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2001 recalls something from fairy tales or a children’s stage set: out of the edge of a giant grey lump stick live people’s legs (see image). In fact, Lee believes that “children are the most serious of people,” and therefore she tries to get at the elements of childhood which unite all of us. “Everyone a child once, its something we all share,” she explains, and I want to “create relationships with [and between] people” –as well as between objects. This is why she works with what she calls “standard forms” such as blocks and circles, or everyday objects, such as green tea, doors, doorknobs or take out cups.

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Finding Identity

FINDING IDENTITY
By Jeong-ok Jeon
Artist: Gi-ok Jeon

We live in a world that is “flat” and overwhelmingly connected according to Thomas Friedman, one in which our everyday lives are undoubtedly intertwined with each others’ in ways beyond the physical. Within this interconnected world of different attitudes and evolving cultures and races, it is possible to drift and lose contact with something personal and intrinsic: one’s identity. This loss is usually accompanied by a lack of ability to connect or communicate well with others, which in turn encourages us to turn inward to self-contemplation. The concept of and search for identity, tied together to the nomadic or immigrant experience and translated into the language of art, becomes an object of inquiry that is as earnest as it is complex and abstruse, where the artist is compelled to reach a realization of the (lost) identity through a variety of approaches. The first approach defines the recognition of “self” as a psychological exploration of the image of “self”, one that can be contextually subjective, and therefore, inconsistent. The second is a manifestation of “relation” through the examination of communication between “us” and “the other”. Finally, there is the more straightforward rediscovering and re-imagining of a traditional image or cultural symbol.

In the new series of Gi-ok Jeon, the three aforementioned artistic strategies are suitably employed in her contemplation of her identity as immigrant, artist and woman. Her use of mixed media –painting, sculpture and installation– not only provides a distinct visual experience and sensory pleasure, but also functions as a vehicle to drive across the artist’s voice, imagery and intent. The contradictory aspect between (different) media and (common) subject suggests the artist’s passion to find a common reality of identity that is universal and permanent although it has been generally understood as unfixed and constantly changing.

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Pinning Eye: Different Stages of Resemblance

PINNING EYE: DIFFERENT STAGES OF RESEMBLANCE
By Jin-Sang Yoo
Artist: Jinkee Choi

We call the space where the objects and events ‘exist’ in the unconsciousness. The negative implication of the term, unconsciousness is originated from our conscious-oriented or the speech-oriented perspective. In fact if we allow ourselves a little distance from the consciousness, rather the self-centered system, we can find the subjectivity in the semantic system that has been blanketed most of the elements in the world. Unconsciousness forces you to consider relationship between the objects and events that happen through such relationships to be accidental, improbable, or even insane. Above all, the unconsciousness, which is residing outside awareness, is declared as the category encompassing ‘non-existential things’ that language cannot define. Nevertheless, what only exists in reversed sense is ‘unconscious’ matters because consciousness, or the objectives understood by semantics are the very ones interpreted through consciousness. They are with filtered or distorted by cognitive system, and most of all, they are perceived within the subjectively signified implication structure. Hence, the objects and events are what consciousness and language pursue, and they are also the objects always hiding aspects out of reach at the other end of consciousness, or the objects surrounded by abyss that our thought never be able to cross. Each object is isolated by the abysmal chasm all around or it can only be connected each other through the certain capability that bridges between the objects. When they are left undiscovered, they ‘exist’. Things of being are either unknown or unrevealed. Things of being, if I quote Heidegger, ‘is the object of being called when we ‘call’ it and it, can only disclose itself through ‘the act of calling (Der Ruf).’ In this sense, the object or an incident that came up into our consciousness is like things we are actually ‘calling’.

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Artist Statement – Jun’ichiro ISHII

ARTIST STATEMENT
By Jun’ichiro ISHII
Artist: Jun’ichiro ISHII

Introduction: ART as a Communication Tool
For me, ‘ART’ signifies an individual attitude in society. When people gather together, the idea of ‘another’ appears. The notion of a relationship between others will encourage the concept of ’social’. My art activities are between you and me, and function as a communication tool.

Background: The Epoch of the Globalization
Today, our bare social reality has caught up with the epoch of the empirical, transformative condition called globalization. Currently in modern society, all our social fate; the customs, experiences, politics, economics and environment have engaged in this reciprocal relationship ‘complex connectivity’. From a cultural point of view, I am interested in the social phenomenon which this complex connectivity brings about.

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The Chain Reaction of Jeong Mee Yoon

THE CHAIN REACTION OF JEONG MEE YOON’S CONTROVERSY OF COLOR: BLUE GIRL AND PINK BOY
By Youngjun Lee
Artist: Jeong Mee Yoon

It was after democratization took place in the late 1980s, after doubt began to overshadow the realms of sense and meaning, that the authority held by the meanings of all things began to shake in Korean society. Following disputes over things that used to be only natural, a controversy over “color” broke out. Of course even in the 80s, before the democratization, there were controversies of color concerning political ideologies, but it was not until the 90s that such controversy reached as far as to implicate presidential candidates. Ever since, as liquid seeps through the fabric of hygienic bands, the color controversy penetrated into the finest pores of society, causing people to question the colors of others’ clothes or what colors were used to paint buses. It was 1985 when popular singer Cho Young-Nam complained at a discussion at the Seoul Museum of Art that all the cars in Korea were either black or white. Perhaps it could be called a feeble beginning of the color controversy, outside the boundary of politics. Shortly after this event, the city buses of Seoul were painted in purple. The color, which was said to have been designed by a Hong-ik University Professor, was changed after receiving tremendous reproach from annoyed citizens. Even the mighty university professor was helpless before the color controversy raised by the people. What was the reason for this? It is because color itself is political. As it is quite bothersome to explain why it is political, I hope all sensible readers will understand it on their own.

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