The Columns Gallery Singapore is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of Korean artist Jung Jong Mee.
Born in 1957 in Korea, Jung Jong Mee is an artist of remarkable talent, celebrated for her mastery of hanji, a traditional Korean paper crafted from the fibres of mulberry trees. Through her experiments with pigment and paper along with her exploration of colour, she is an artist who gives a new language to both form and content of Korean painting. Her artistic repertoire is deeply rooted in her profound admiration of the strength and resilience embodied by women. Coming of age in the conservative milieu of Daegu, Jung Jong Mee's upbringing significantly influenced her artistic path. The nurturing presence of women in her life, particularly her mother and grandmother, fuelled her fascination with the female experience. This early exposure cultivated a deep sense of empathy and understanding for the women who played vital roles in shaping her world.
At the heart of Jung Jong Mee's artistic vision is a steadfast belief in the often untapped potential of women and their unique ability to contribute to society in harmony with men. This conviction became the cornerstone of her artistic expression, where she sought out to depict the inherent qualities of Korean women—a seamless blend of resilience and tenderness. Hanji, a traditional Korean paper, became her chosen medium due to its unparalleled combination of strength and tenderness, mirroring the very qualities that defined the women she honours in her art. She found the temperament of Korean women in the mulberry tree. Mrs. Paper Women is a tribute to all the women who, like the mulberry tree endured wind, rain, and frost. They lived through the glorious history of their land with their whole bodies, constantly sacrificing themselves as fertiliser and giving everything without regret.
In her works, Jung Jong Mee passionately portrays Korean mothers, paying homage to their unyielding dedication. Despite the demanding nature of their daily routines, these mothers would labor into the late hours, only illuminated by gentle glows of lanterns. Threading needles with vibrant coloured threads, they wove intricate patterns on cloths adorning them with the five cardinal colours, creating exquisite garments that symbolised hope and dedication. 'Mrs. Paper Women' is like a ritual of worship to all the women. In particular, in series like 'Women in History – Hwangjini' and 'Women in History – Sinsaimdang', she reinterprets their portraits based on historical facts. This is a departure from the past practices, when portraits of women mainly reflected societal expectations of classic female figures. She also incorporates the meaning of 'Requiem' into these series, which provides solace to the souls of women who lived difficult lives. Each stitch is a testament to their passion, resilience, and the transformative power they held within society. Through celebrated series like 'Mrs. Paper Women' and 'Wrapping Cloth Women,' Jung Jong Mee's art serves as a scroll of homage, reverently cherishing the legacy of mothers who have shaped Korean society.
Song of Fisherman was originally a poem written by the poet Yoon Seon Do during the Joseon Dynasty. This poem portrayed a self-sufficient life, in which he escaped from the secular world to immerse himself in the beauty of nature. Yoon Seon Do's poetry has been reborn in the form of a painting by Jung Jong Mee. Her Song of Fisherman resembles a poem brought to life with paint. She intentionally employs traditional Korean materials and techniques to convey the essence of this beautifully written Korean poem through her work. In her paintings, she reinterprets the beauty of the landscape in a modern context while using the most traditional techniques and materials available.
Dream in the Peach Garden was originally painted by the Joseon Dynasty painter An Gyeon with ink-wash on hanji. Jung Jong Mee's reinterpretation of An Gyeon's work attempts to modernise the existing beauty by a technique using natural dyes on linen. The core of Dream in the Peach Garden is the expression of emotions, 'the dream', through her expression of colour. She reinterprets the existing emotions in modern colours and captures them in her work.
In 2023, she retired after serving 15 years as a professor at the Department of Fine Art in Korea University. Her remarkable artistic contributions have garnered prestigious awards, including the Lee Insung Award in 2012 and the Lee Jungseob Award in 2001. Her works have found homes in renowned institutions such as the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, Seoul Museum of Art, Korea University Museum, and Seoul National University Museum, where they stand proudly, embodying her enduring philosophy and artistic excellence.
Press release courtesy The Columns Gallery.