For the summer of 2004, Kukje Gallery has chosen three artists: Suejin Chung, Steven Gontarsky and MeeNa Park. Still in their 30s, they are highly active both at home and abroad, and known for their visual and conceptual explorations.
Since the mid-1990s, MeeNa Park has been recording her detailed studies based on her observations of everyday life and exploring how meaning is created and presented. In this exhibition, she unveils her latest projects based on her "Orange Painting" (2002), which was first shown in 2003. While this painting appears lively and bright on the surface, in fact, it is bound by numerous rules to the point of giving the observer a headache. Park's work takes off from a consideration of the conflict inherent in embodying the visual and conceptual elements of a painting. The trend of evaluating a painting by its visual appeal, as demanded by the art market, caused her to cling more and more to her "studies." How many different names and hues can be produced by a single type of color that exists as a material to make art? The artist predetermines the number of colors, the thickness of their tones, the size of the canvas and the space in which the painting will be arranged. Then the artist searches the Internet and sifts through other references until she finds the pieces of furniture that match this canvas. The result is none other than the "rules" themselves, like a puzzle fit together according to the dictates of all kinds of rules. Her paintings question us to think about how information becomes conceptualized as a separate entity from material form.
Take one look at the composition of a painting by Suejin Chung, and the notion that she paints intuitively without a preconceived order disappears. By simplifying the composition of her canvas, one can discover an exact geometrical division. Her works are a series of repetitions, consisting of divisions of up and down and divisions of left and right, on a blank, white canvas. As a result, one cannot take one's eyes off the composition or the density of colors. This is the reason why the drifting of familiar objects in a vague space appears orderly. While people are rendered realistically, they do not refer to specific people. The people who exist within the same painting have no narration to relate them to each other, nor are they gathered in a crowd. However, there is a strong sense of abundant space in her canvas because the people and the objects float separately from each other. The vague ambience of her work is also revealed in the colors. The various colors that fill out the shapes in her finely divided canvas are subdued, but one can still discover a preponderance of tones belonging to the primary colors of red and green. This has the effect of forcing the viewer to become aware of the density of the paint itself. At the same time, it causes the canvas to appear dry while helping the viewer feel the richness of colors, thus stimulating the eyes in two ways.
Steven Gontarsky adheres to the traditional methods of expression regardless of the properties of his materials. At the same time, he pursues a visual effect that somehow transcends his materials. This is revealed both in the soft space created by penetrating a form wrapped in a veil and in the highly reflective surface of high-gloss paint. We become curious about the actuality of the physical form beneath the surface and not visible to the eye. Already, a non-material attribute has been made aware visually. Gontarsky gains inspiration from and finds beauty in his cultural surroundings. Graffiti, hip-hop and skateboarding are fused with the traditional figurative sculpture to create a quality of kitsch. Furthermore, while his works seem to reflect the Classical mode of the Greek period and its idealized form, in fact, the distorted lengths and surface touches are more reminiscent of the strangeness of Mannerism, which developed after the Renaissance. This appears to be his method for approaching and understanding old legends. His work teaches us that just as myths, which are hardly realistic stories, can still reflect reality, art also embodies an unchanging value through time while at the same time reflecting the time in which it was created.
What is noteworthy about these three artists is that they all use their choice of materials to closely approximate their concepts. In the works of MeeNa Park, which explore and analyze the systems prevalent in our society, in the works of Suejin Chung, which vividly reveal the density within a canvas through various methods, and in the works of Steven Gontarsky, which follow traditional methods while at the same time expressing a slice of the unrealistic form of contemporary culture, the materials play a crucial role each in their own way. Naturally, through these works, the artists and the audience all come to ask about the true nature of art. We come to explore together the social phenomena that can be expressed by art, the expression of imagination within the consciousness, and the flow of history in pursuit of beauty.