Written by: Lee Sora
Title: Traces of Movements that Give Life
Here are the moving pictures. Chu- (2021) captures the exhilarating moment of Miss Bunny and Thumper where Miss Bunny flares her nostrils as she leans her upper body toward Thumper, shyly but brazenly kissing him, and Thumper, with his ears up and shaking his left foot. Ugh- (2021) depicts a duck cartoon character standing up, holding its head with its hands (or wings), and swaying its upper body up and down, seething with rage. Racks Racks (2021) shows an infinite number of bills being flipped quickly, one after another. Good Morning (2021) is a repeated greeting because it is not enough to say it once. These paintings came from graphics interchange format (GIF) files (meme GIFs). A meme GIF is a clip from the original video. They remove the producer's intention and make a "fleeting eternity" (that ends as soon as it begins, or those viewers cannot even recognize which section of the video it was) from a flood of full-length videos. Subjects of the short clips that spotlight a specific scene repeat the same motion repeatedly. They demonstrate their existence by repeating the empty movement tens of thousands of times, like ascetics.
The body was made to stand on the ground, defy gravity, and move. All living things—from the delicate movements of Watcher (2021) rolling the pupils in all directions to be vigilant of surroundings to the action that includes mass and speed as animal characters roll down a sharp mountain slope hugging a huge snowball in Rolling (2021)—move. The verb that describes movement is a part of speech that describes movements or actions of people and things. It also illustrates the subject of the sentence to animate the subject literally. 動, a Chinese character in the Korean word for movement, describes the physical state such as "to move, to move to another place, to shake, and to start something," as well as the psychological state like "to be agitated, to feel, and to respond." The title of Lee Eun's exhibition, Turn. Switch. Jump![LEXCODE1] is made by switching the rhythmic movement of materials found in all her paintings to the melody of language. The name of her works consists of innate senses in exclamations, including surprise, feeling, calling, and responding. They represent the emotion or the will of the subject depicted in the painting, but they resemble Lee's work method that starts by selecting meme GIFs that reflect her status of that day or are chosen just because she likes them. Similar to exclamations that directly reflect your feeling and will without relying on other words, Lee does not hide her intention to turn away from her old painting style, switching her painterly mode by hiding her previous work under the canvas and jumping forward to take her paintings to the next level again.
She decides to paint things she is familiar with and do no harm (emotionally and physically). Things that she often sees because she can keep them next to her. Thus, her works haul things like the instinctive situation she is drawn to by heart, impulses she can't oppress that she cannot reveal in the real world using the subject's actions in the meme GIFs or texts. She withdraws from them regarding the precise situation the subjects of the canvas are in and why they repeat the same motion repeatedly. What we should look at is the fact that they are constantly moving. She creates living things in her paintings by watching "moving pictures." The moment the paint that passes through the filter of the artist's body touches the canvas, creatures that were intangible before are swarming into reality at last. The motions of subjects that burst out of the monitor make visible sounds. Their gestures gain materiality through rough marks from scratching the canvas before the paint dried and conté that leaves direct traces of the artist's movements. She uses the canvas board as a screen and piles up images or subjects traversing two canvas boards to introduce a sense of time. The moods that reset the use of the medium and canvas screen recreate time and space in her paintings. This way, she effectively builds a place to move or stay for subjects that repeat the short motion throughout their lifespan.
Meme GIFs are telling proof of how we consume images today. Wireless Internet services available anywhere in the country have disrupted the way encyclopedias provide similar information within a given category in series. Instead, they adopted a method of inserting words in a square box and clicking to retrieve individual information. Afterward, the search and communication method shifted to "blogs." The mix of photos and text moves from top to bottom on the computer screen by scrolling. The explosive use of social media, led by KakaoTalk (the most widely used messenger app in Korea) and Instagram, has provided momentum to inviting meme GIFs into our daily lives. This is because they are a great source of entertainment for people looking for small but humorous stories that they can spend time with instead of simply making a quick search for things or idling the time away. During the pandemic, when it is not easy to see people's faces and read their minds, meme GIFs and highlight clips are forwarded to share the feelings or situations we are in on social media or to respond aptly. Such attitude in how we consume media symbolizes the time of the great shift in how we look at monitors or phone screens from scrolling down "vertically" to watching videos sideways by moving the video player bar "horizontally" from left to right. The world of data is building a firm foundation regardless of the land we stand on, with videos uploaded every few seconds. In this world, meme GIFs replay what we consider petty scenes or episodes. Subjects that capture the painter's attention do not do anything that could put anyone in danger. They simply do what they need to do quietly inside the canvas. They also move as the main agent of the given action, showing the situation they are in and the reason that made them do what they are doing in an abridged flow. Their perpetual, never-ending movements never reach a point in time. They do not explicitly exhibit their will or goal-oriented attitude in the first place. They merely navigate the world inside the canvas. They move silently and boldly as living things before the audience realizes how this all began or will end.
A solo exhibition, Turn. Switch. Jump!, Gallery Chosun, 2022.
Korean-English Translation of this book(or text etc) is supported by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Korea Arts Management Service
Press release courtesy Gallery Chosun.