Seeing means more than forming an image on a retina: it is a holistic sense of understanding the world. In his essay Eye and Mind, Maurice Merleau-Ponty described the act of seeing as ‘having at a distance,’ that seeing is not a ‘will’ but an ‘event.’ According to him. Understanding both one‘s visual perception and that of other's—being understanding the holistic situation that one sees and being seen at the same time, we recognise that everyone is situated in the visible world. In other words, we establish relationships with the world through visual perceptions. Merleau-Ponty contended the necessity of actions to change ‘events’ into these ‘perceptions’. Painting what one saw could be interpreted as ‘actions’ that he claimed. The born paintings from these actions are not just chunks of paint nor reproductions of images: they are something other that having relationship with the world. Through artworks, a visual perception of an artist becomes gestures, not when he expresses opinions about the world.'
His philosophy becomes all the more interesting, when you think of the artworks that transfer virtual images back to paintings, which have started to appear in recent years. We are living in a world of virtuality and reality getting intertwined, and immaterial communications affecting overall everyday living. Yet, why are artists willing to re-materialise them? Why do their eyes refuse to reside in the virtual, and try to return to the real?
Starting with these questions, the exhibition Manners of Representation: A Piece of Cake invited following ten artists, who observe phenomena as if they were enchanted, and invoke perceptions by transferring forms of the observed back into artworks. Seok Ho Kang (b. 1971) paints close-ups of body parts that fill the screens. Enlarged images reveal events or desires by themselves without related narrative contexts or information about the person. Hyewon Kim (b. 1993) focuses on the act of seeing and drawing to capture scenes that can be easily acquired around to the screens. She intentionally separates each stage of painting into minimum actions, so that she can focus on the actions. Eunjoo Rho (b. 1988) depicts essential forms of things that constitute urban landscapes. Such paintings of still life and landscape capture forms, which make brief appearances between extinction and production, implicating movement-time. Using familiar but incomplete materials, pencil and paper, Jungin Park (b. 1991) depicts temporarily created objects under conditions of light. When specific forms appear as their shadows by the time and light, they become connected to fine flows to reveal the relationship among the perceived subjects, visual space and sight. With portraits of figures, Dongwook Suh (b. 1974) depicts fine facial expressions of the figures to express complex emotions, which are revealed instantaneously. Hyunseon Son (b. 1987) is interested in visualisation of detectable things that exist outside of visions. Through visual perceptions, she understands the subjects. She conducts technical and media research to translate them onto canvas. Hoin Lee (b. 1980) paints night views of the city as landscapes. He implements speedy strokes to convey and reveal his understanding and feelings together with the surficial and bifocal characteristics of the city. Yongkook Jeong (b. 1972) painted 'Flow' series by re-appropriating the picture book Water Studies (十二水圖) of Ma Yuan (馬遠) of Southern Song dynasty (南宋), which depicts waves of rivers, lakes and seas. The black inky colour painted with a brush stroke of wet ink turns into blue waves, while the white paper is experienced as a dazzling light. Thus it relishes the subject's original characteristics with a different yet similar sense. Maximising descriptions of subjects, Woobin Cho (b. 1993) shapes forms out of paints, wood and resin. Subjects as artworks consisted with a completely different material, scale, and surface instead of faithfully following actual shapes, rather evoke an uncanny sense and lead to physical perceptions rather than reminding of the original. Mo Min Choi (b. 1985) directs situations that are unlikely to happen in reality, then films them, and transfers them to paintings. The characteristics of painting and the situation in the painting appear to be surrealistic descriptions reflecting the artist's psychology, but certain parts of the paintings are actual events that have taken place. His paintings reveal a multilayered irony as facts, directions, psychology and phenomena intersect.
Trying to approach existence by staring at something for a long time and extracting its form is under the influence of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy to escape from the dichotomy of mind and body. So do artists gazing toward the world to observe phenomena, and incarnating what they have observed. A work of art with a physical mass is something that exists in the world, and something that neighbours other things. In this regard, questions on forms in figurative paintings follow understandings on phenomena and their existence. In other words, the relationship between events next to the canvas and the painted picture on it, and the relationship produced from the body of eyes and hands combined together, are placed before artists. Eyes and hands that scan the surface of a subject over and over are persistent and tenacious inquiries about the world: They are the result of restless investigations for the relationship between what lies in the front—next to—and my existence. This exhibition Manners of Representation: A Piece of Cake can be interpreted as a map, projected by threading out the artworks as the results of these total perceptions.
Press release courtesy One And J. Gallery.