Kim Hyun-Jung is a young and talented artist who gives new
rise to the Traditional Korean Painting. Her delicate depictions of
women-featured works evoke admiration and sympathy through humoristic emotions
in it. She especially is worthy of admiration by establishing a paragon of
"new" genre painting with sophisticated expressiveness and
originality of subject matter. The works of Kim give a quite exceptional surprise in form
and content. But the fact, in which her unprecedentedness is based on our
traditional painting, becomes a rather convincing and delighting due to its
At first, her works, in terms of the form, have both
Oriental and Western painting techniques. Fine strokes in facial expression and
costume of female figure remind of line drawings technique of Goryeo Buddhist paintings. Subdued
expression of hanbok, which seemed to
be reproduced Bokchaebeop(伏彩法), is excellent as well. The artist uses diaphanous hanji to express feature of hanbok which is close to transparent.
Meanwhile, the props that appear with figures are
expressed in detail as it were hyper-realistic technique of Western Painting.
An artist who is particularly good at horse drawing, which is a difficult
subject matter in a traditional Korean painting, is regarded to have coups de maître and this young artist realistically
draws to a wonder. An artist of indeterminate age shows consummate brush stroke
skill which gives us a clue of conjecturable amount of practice. So I would
like to say that mere presumption of her skill by looking through the prints on
the art book would be a big misjudgment. Encountering the real-life size work
makes you feel the elaborate depiction and subdued feelings intactly.
Breakaway in the content is also interesting. Female
figure in the work wears hanbok and
her image is quite remote from the expected traditional perspectives, yet she
is assertive and active. She does not care about regulation, formality and
attitude which is implied in style of dress. She is on horseback riding with
tightly rolled-up skirt, or sometimes on the Harley-Davidson, the exclusive property of macho. Most people who
pretend to be exemplary will inevitably feel a kind of catharsis by vicarious
satisfaction through this drastic and honest exposure of hidden desire.
Wit and breakaway shown in works of Kim has its roots in
the genre painting of predecessors which is full of humor and satire. Shin
Yoon-Bok’s masterpiece Yeon So Dap
Cheong(年小踏靑), which delineates scene of yangban(aristocrat) taking gisaeng(courtesan, professional female
entertainer) on horse to go field trip, is one of them. Social norms of the
Joseon Dynasty are exceptionally
strict and only person with high status can ride on horseback, but this
particular painting describes shocking scene of gisaeng, one of the lowest class, who rides on horse along with yangban walking. The genre painting
painters of the time disclose social contradiction where the strict law is only
nominal yet actual life is promiscuous. Maybe, their paintings, instead of
blaming society, cry out loud that "Enjoying the demimonde life is what
they consider decent living." like Renaissance
movement of West.
So does works of Kim Hyun-Jung. Her naked disclosure of
hidden desires might make you uncomfortable for a moment, but soon you can find
out that it understands and consoles you. Her works obviously have the power to
embrace and heal up of affront or loneliness of contemporaries.
In particular, the works that emerged with woman and
horse, Dalryeogama(馬): Run to you, Yeojanun Mal(馬)-ijo: A woman
is, Sseomma(馬) time: Horse time, Chukhahandanun Mal(馬): Word of Congratulations, Santa Mal(馬)-iya:
Santa Horse, and Faux-naif Paradise
would have been the opportunity of reflecting more deeply on the
"relationship" to the artist.
First, the motif of Dalryeogama(馬): Run to you is borrowed from traditional painting, Riding Horse Painting(走馬圖). It seizes the moment of floating horse which is galloping at
full speed. Old equestrian paintings are usually depicting decent and elegant
aristocrats on hunting or war scene. Therefore, encounter moment of woman with
the horse in Dalryeogama(馬): Run to you gives a fresh impression. We can vividly feel the
condensed energy and tension in the figure of racehorse with twitching muscle
and greatly expanded nostrils to breathe in. On the other hand, thin skirt
blown up like a balloon of the female figure on horseback seems to soar into
sky at any moment. Breathtaking unity of the confrontational objects brings an
intense immersion to the viewers.
Yeojanun Mal(馬)-ijo: A woman is is also unique equestrian portrait
painting. The great white horse is distracted to carrot in front of him and
woman, mounted on horseback, turns the body and outstretches hand toward the
shoes and bags placed below. Scene of shoes and bags while horseback riding is
absolutely preposterous, nevertheless main figure of Yeojanun Mal(馬)-ijo: A woman is adorably appeals the
appropriateness of this situation with a somewhat desired facial expression.
Shoe is a kind of symbol that represents the identity of the artist. Colors and
patterns are of the traditional shoes but it has high heels like Western shoes.
It represents the artist's high self-confidence that would readily accepted
outside as long as it is a new, interesting and beautiful while keeping with
the unique beauty of Korean painting.
Chukhahandanun Mal(馬): Word of Congratulations is rooted in iconic painting of the
Horse and Man. Each iconic painting contains certain meaning. For instance, in
old paintings, like Semado(洗馬圖), the portrait of man washing a horse at the waterside, Gyeonmado(牽馬圖), the portrait of man
leading a horse, Sangmado(相馬圖), the portrait of examining and choosing a horse, every horses
symbolize man and every action taken in painting is a political allegory of
improving oneself and talent hunting. Pony, featured in Chukhahandanun Mal(馬): Word of
Congratulations, also symbolizes a friend. Pony is paying more attention to
carrot on the cake than birthday gift saddle. When we figure out the hidden intention
of the artist who shares the same perspective with friend, we can put on an
impish smile. The artist plays a variation of the traditional horse and man
painting by lifting up the vertical relationship between horse and man which
can be summarized as loyalty(忠) to the horizontal stage of sharing a
Female figure and pony in Sseomma(馬) time: Horse time stand the heat only with
electric fan and watermelon and that is as simple yet elegant as the ways of
beating the summer heat with bathe, resting under shade of the tree and using
fan in Joseon Dynasty. Fine aesthetic
sense of the artist of matching the color of jeogori(Korean traditional jacket) and electric fan matches with
green and red color of watermelon and brown color of pony and cart can also be
the attractive point for appreciating.
Santa Mal(馬)-iya: Santa Horse is also full of charm and character.
The woman in the work is always impassive and prudish and that makes people
wonder what is on her mind. By given title which sounds quite similar to
"Santa Maria", referring to the symbol of mercy and grace also the mother
of Jesus, viewers can infer the artist's intention of conveying the pleasure of
sharing like Santa Claus does.
Faux-naif Paradise is based on the far too
familiar work of Chusa Kim Jung-Hee(金正喜), National
Treasure No. 180, Sehando(歲寒圖): Winter Landscape. At first, I was surprised by the backbone of the young artist who
boldly borrows Sehando(歲寒圖): Winter Landscape, exalted by people of a painting that captures the quintessence of Literary Artists' Paintings. Honestly, I
was quite concerned. But, I looked into the works and thought that it is hardly
possible that she did not know about the spirit of Chusa and historical background of the era since she had been
studying Oriental Paintings in-depth. Perhaps, the artist had a better
understanding of Chusa's arriere-pensee. It is clear that the
artist found a similar color of solitude of her own in that painting. Therefore
Sehando(歲寒圖): Winter Landscape is
added warmth and color by horseback riding and exercising female figures. And
the artist questioned back, "Isn't winter landscape with crowded people
quite fair to be paradise?" Fastidious Chusa
might have been smiling in homage of witty protégé.
Works of Kim Hyun-Jung often make us recall of the late
20th century American artist Edward Hopper who represented the modern society
and solitude. Because we can see the loneliness and plaintiveness casted inside
of gorgeous and valorous women. So I have stronger affection on the series of
woman and horse than Faux-naif Amusement
Park. I certainly believe that the artist felt the warm consolation by
drawing mild creature, "Horse" by the side of figure.
In addition, this exhibition introduces numerous number of
new works like Preference Sniper and Master of Life. It will be a great
chance to find remarkable growth of expression skills and profound composure of
the artist. I am looking forward to see Kim Hyun-Jung's vigorous activities in
front line of art world and spread power of free-spirited and fascinating Korean
Paintings beyond the burden on big title of idol painter and emptiness behind
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