Hong Sunhoan | PDF

Translated from Korean by Inhye Kang; translation revised by Robert Peters
Review of exhibitions published in Ocean Culture
“Non-Painting Painting,” Kunst Doc Art Gallery (Aug. 3 – 16, 2012)
“What Is to Be Done?” Nanji Gallery, Seoul Museum of Art (Aug. 8 – 17, 2012)

Jinny Yu’s work tacitly critiques the conservatism of traditional painting. This critical intent has led her to attempt to serialize her life within a sphere of events; this in turn has resulted in an expansion of her subject matter. According to the late French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, “the event” has neither continuity nor a crystallized structure; however, events repetitively occur and encourage but do not always achieve change. Aspects of Yu’s paintings resemble these features of “events.” Moreover, her work explores the cleavage between existence and proof of that existence. Her paintings might appear to be a group of irrational patterns, but this is primarily because she explores both the world and her art from the edges. We might say that she seeks a new horizon in which to locate her practice. By new horizon, I mean sphere beyond both common sense and realism. Yu considers herself a nomadic observer, and the greater the number of points of view she assumes, the greater the scope of her subject matter. Like a geologist, she takes investigation and pioneering to be part of the process of painting. The events which “appear” in her art might seem unstable and temporary, but they are among the elements that comprise her life. Sensation can be understood as the process through which a phenomenon we experience through our senses is materialized into an event; sensation, thus, differs from perception, since the latter is systematically re-contextualized through rationality. Sensation is visualized through icon, index, or symbol. Furthermore, although events might seem transient, they are not merely meaningless or ephemeral but combine into their own systems which often result in the re-contextualizing of the world. Our thinking is comprised of the combining of the visible, material world and the non-visible, nonmaterial world. Our world exists through the maintenance of reciprocal probabilities within the multiple networks.

Yu’s method is to combine various materials with aluminum. Aluminum is a metal and is, after oxygen and silicon, the most plentiful element on our planet. Aluminum oxidizes easily but is not further corroded once the surface has been coated with a layer of aluminum oxide. After this layer has formed, material applied to the surface cannot penetrate the metal. Aluminum differs from other metals, many of which suffer severe corrosion through exposure to air, and this is why it is so often used for the exteriors of buildings. Although aluminum reflects less visible light than silver, it reflects more ultraviolet and infrared light than any other metal; this makes it valuable in the building of various optical devices. Yu’s paintings explore and exploit these properties of aluminum. Because of its reflective properties, an aluminum surface often “contains” glimmering images, blurry reflections of its surroundings. Moreover, the surface of aluminum is difficult to penetrate. For these reasons, aluminum is a difficult and challenging material on which to paint, since the materials from which paint is typically made cannot permanently settle in the aluminum but remain on its surface. Why Yu has chose this medium rather than canvas, paper, or wood deserves our attention.

Her paintings are manifestations of certain gestures, gestures that sometimes display passion while at others times point to introspection. One of the means by which we are able to recognize or “see” the world is by engaging with it rather than simply viewing it from our own subjective standpoints. Although Yu’s works might appear peaceful and still, displaying few desires or obsessions, this stillness actually expresses a strong sense of presence. We should, here, recall Yu’s description of herself as a nomad. The ways in which she understands her identity are inseparable from her artistic practice. As mentioned above, the paint applied to an aluminum surface does not fuse with that surface, and the surface of a sheet of aluminum already reflects images of phenomena extraneous to it. As a material on which to paint, aluminum already possesses a certain visual tension. These aspects of aluminum and the visual tension they create “reflect” Yu’s self-ascribed identity as nomad. She consistently employs black oil paint to create images that are neither representational nor metaphorical. Black oil paint has its own chemical and physical attributes, and the combination of surface and painting medium differentiate Yu’s work from modernist non-representational and abstract paintings. Because of the very materials with which she works, her paintings are not finished or fixed but remain in process as continuous traces of her exploration of the world. Put another way, they are a series of events of sensation that offer a strong proof of the existence of something beyond the visual.

One of the most widely discussed issues in contemporary art is the degree to which art can be understood as an ongoing process rather than a completed product. The contemporary art scene has moved beyond the visible world toward the non-visible, the more fundamental facts that underlie what we “see.” This was led by the deconstruction of a centralized idea of culture that allowed for cultural pluralism. Much contemporary art rejects art’s traditional role as a discourse about the visible world. When art attempts to go beyond conventional notions of space and to subvert existing perspectives, it can become difficult and unclear. But today’s art embraces crisis and confusion, and it is not uncommon for contemporary art to attempt to expand epistemological frames and establish new subjectivities. Some artists seek to insert their work within the visible world in order subsequently to make that world ambiguous. Guenter Foerg is one example; his work does not encourage us to infer other worlds but stresses the presence and materiality of his own work. His art displays no obsession with either mimesis or illusion, though it does exist within open spatial structures. Like much contemporary art, Yu’s paintings insist upon their own materiality, but they also point to other non-visible worlds.