While having the chance to enjoy an extremely sophisticated painterly texture based on the intelligent and subtle mixing of certain Occidental tradition of exercising painting, with certain Oriental way of creating images and their pictorial surrounding around some simple ambiguous motives, the viewer becomes successively absorbed in a slowly opening poetical universe of Youjin Yi's painting. All of her paintings, drawings, sculptures evoke an unknown, hidden territory of exciting imaginary happenings and obscure processes of permanent transformations, where strange transfigurations offer fairytale-like anecdotes, where human and animal figures, motifs from the nature are appearing and disappearing or transforming into something else, where the fictive-imaginary space might open obscure deepness with uncontrollable associations. Motives of the nature, landscapes with dark forests and shiny fields, hills and rivers, animals and human bodies are connected with each other and penetrating in each other, in a fluid process of accumulating different possible ways of reading.
Light and darkness are painterly interpreted in Yi's oeuvre as potential sources of narratives which enable to generate a metaphoric aura of connotations and references. Meanwhile, through her special treatment of colour, through the concentration on organising dramatic confrontations between light and dark fields, between shining and obscure surfaces, an unexpected, multifaceted, imaginary space appears in various meanings on her canvas, where figure and ground or inside and outside are constantly reversed. Yi is quoted as saying, 'Lines in this process become spots that create openings, instead of establishing limitations.' In other words, line is not a division that separates and defines things against each other but a specific place where certain happenings and probable events can occur between the boundaries, between interior and exterior, material and immaterial, mental and physical, or reality and dream. Experiencing the deepness of this confrontational territory seems to be a central issue in Youjin Yi's painting.
Youjin Yi is continuing to examine the methods of shaping imaginary spaces through light effects, to create virtual deepness inside the structure of the painting through the range of colour, to borrow to the motives an undefined character and keep them in a state of unfixed, unstable, undetermined obscurity. The multi-layered semantic system in her work opens different interpretations of possible narratives and offers a large, wide, almost unlimited territory of literary associations, psychological connotations while an immanent pictorial discourse based on questioning the narrative-generating competence and capacity of the organised visual structure is continuing.
Born in Gangneung, South Korea in 1980, she first studied at the Sejong University in Seoul but left in the middle of her studies because of their standardised art educational system. After traveling in Europe, she was fascinated by German culture that she experienced while visiting museums and universities. Especially, an encounter with Günther Förg in Munich had a great influence not only on her artistic vision, but also on her autonomous, spontaneous view of life. Yi studied painting at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich from 2004 to 2011 and graduated with a master degree under the guidance of Günther Förg. Probably that is why she is operating with certain German art historian references, mainly from Realism and Symbolism in the late 19th century and Expressionism at the early 20th century.
However, it is not cited a way to reproduce historical events, but to examine the capacity of pictorial structure to generate narratives through the fictional 'reconstruction' of imaginary happenings based on reality.
At the same time, Yi strengthens the emotionality and the poetical coherency of this fictive-imaginary aura, and doing so her painting reveals a certain hidden Romantic, a highly personal approach on spirituality embodied in nature. In this sense, her painterly universe could be seen as a certain encounter of East-Asian tradition and European pictorial methodology. Yi lives and works in Munich even after finishing her studies because placing herself at a place where is intersected by divers cultures became an important component of her art and artistic practice. It is as she does in her pictorial praxis with her motives when she puts them in the fictive-imaginary space of her paintings where unpredictable events and enigmatic happenings are suggested to experience; doing so, she exposes herself at the complex, unstable, changeable and somewhat obscure socio-cultural field.
This exhibition, Yi's first solo show in South Korea, is composed of various genres such as 16 paintings, 19 drawings, 8 prints, and 5 sculptures, focusing on her recent works. This will offer an important occasion to capture not only her challenging, experimental approach toward new techniques and material, but also her artistic attitude which is penetrated through the flow of the overall work. Youjin Yi's activities in Asia are also highly anticipated, including her participation as a solo stand in the Insight section at Art Basel Hong Kong in this May.
Curator Eunmi Lee
Press release courtesy Wooson Gallery.