English | Korean

- In the Middle of Reality -

Seungoh SHIN (Director of Perigee Gallery)

AN Gyungsu has been drawing specific landscapes. These are spaces that have existed in real life, but finally reached out to him when accidentally discovered and realized by the artist. These spaces include artificial sculptures, suburbs in a city, sites designated for development, and reclaimed land. These are the places distanced from the center, existing awkwardly between man made and natural landscapes. The artist portrays these spaces realistically. However, I would like to point out his works with a different tendency. The artist’s current works show indefinite and vague scenes, unlike his previous works that depicted specific spaces with clear shapes and the distinctive character of the place. How can his new practice be interpreted along the previously existing works?

For this, I will review his attitude in his practice through a few works that demonstrate this new tendency. His current works sign, Secret Burning, Street Light, Truck, and A Loud Fire seem to highlight invisible subjects like light, darkness, and wind. In particular, the landscapes that transform themselves along with the intensity of light during the dark evening or dusk do not suddenly appear. The artist has been drawing these works, little by little for a long time. The landscape he draws is based on meticulous observation, but he does not merely depict it in order to deliver intellectual information. Furthermore, it does not mean that he is just triggered by the stimulation of strange and odd landscapes he discovers, transferring them into emotional scenes. What AN Gyungsu attempts to reach between knowledge and sensory data from visual experience is an authentic reality. According to the artist, this has its basis in ‘learning.’ His learning does not mean merely acquiring intellectual knowledge, but in being habituated to something. This means tracking something sensorial, including the air and smell that a place has acquired for a long time, in addition to the recognition of the surface of a place based on forms of visual information. In other words, this is not an impression of momentary, sporadic stimulation but a recognition that the artist earns through the act of visiting the place many times and being habituated to that space. Rather than changing and understanding the space he sees through his own perspective, he contemplates to familiarize an approach, absorbing himself into the space as if he were a part of it. He waits until he feels present in the space itself, instead of merely perceiving the space as superficially fixed as a passive, stuffed subject. Of course this might be an impossible aim, nevertheless, it is only possible by drawing the change of ‘oneself’ in some way. What is worth noticing here is that he unconsciously accomplishes gradual, internal changes through his learning to acquire this reality, and this naturally brings about change in his practice. He comes to assign himself the new tasks: “How does the change occur, when it is still gradually moving at this very moment?”, “Do we recognize it?”, and “Can I express this reality filled with invisible phenomena through an artistic practice?”

Of course, what we would like to review in his practice is not the story of change, like the sudden event that is sensational or provocative. As discussed above it is an internal change that gradually and naturally occurs during his learning process. A change like this creates an indefinite but clearly different temporal space that distinguishes a before and after particular moments. In fact, he is already accustomed to capturing and representing what appears in gaps like these. Well presenting the spaces that physically exist that are forced into such circumstances, Curtain, Covering, and Corner portrays spaces covered all over with construction fabric. This clearly presents the forceful act itself that hides, disguises, supplements, justifies these actions, and artificially breathes life again, instead of revealing the object in an obvious manner. In this way he draws a concrete object with certainty, but instead of directing something through its surface, he expresses meanings that finally surface from the reality hidden behind the image. Thus, as we see the surface of his works, we get to envision what is hidden behind. However, the works I noticed, such as A Loud Fire, Secret Burning, and sign, are somewhat different. What is remarkable in these works is the approach in directly overcoming the limits of visual experience as it is difficult to capture something. Otherwise, he tries to directly reveal things that are hidden that he had not drawn upon before. He paints a situation of being visually hindered - one cannot perfectly capture a thing, like when a clear shape turns obscure and borders are blurred because of light, or momentary scenes right before the unique situation of an approaching typhoon. Darkness is a space that causes visual incapacity, in other words, a visual error in which a subject cannot be distinguished. However, on the other side, this is a space of infinity, where borders vanish and new things are recognized, creating a deeper space. Through the border of darkness that changes by sudden light or a burning fire, the artist captures momentarily gaps in transformation. Also, the conditions seen right before a typhoon is literally a way to infer an upcoming event, but in this state, no one can confidently tell what will happen after the typhoon. In this way, while his previous practice seem like a solid, objective surface that possesses sarcasm and certainty, current works seem fluid, descriptive, and even romantic. How did this type of work come about? This originates in his act of looking at certain objects for a long time, which is his method of taking in a subject. Instead of simply observing a subject, he gradually withdraws as he stares at it. What is newly found in his work is an artistic trace from reality that is stamped inside of him, which he earns from the momentary situation he confronts in certain places. In these representations, the character of his painting is a kind of smoothness or thin surface. The superficial layers all over the work are not piled in stratum but permeate each other through repetitive brush strokes and accomplish the indefinite abyss of infinite depth, as if taking root within the screen. The artist blurs the border between a rational awareness through information earned from his unique experience and sensitive contemplation afterwards, in order to portray the calm but loud reality he recognizes and sympathizes with. AN naturally shows the change within his practice, but this did not occur all at once. His change is based on his own consistent style that he learned in order to capture what rises from the difference between the reality and the idea of constantly viewing the world.

Let’s imagine we are looking at a space like the artist does. If we have a fixed frame about the space and its character, we will have similar envisioned images of it. If we all look at an object, envision similar images that are not much different, and do not sense any change or difference, what meaning will our vision, senses, and experience have? We will only be left with a boring, insignificant life. Thus, to truly see something one should have different understandings, transformations, and freely look in one’s own way. There is no more magic in the life we live. The sensations we experience in present world appear unexpectedly like myths, rapidly dissolve, and vanish. The emotion that responds to this pace subtly distorts, and cyclically repeats, and follows rational orders believed to be of natural sequence, losing its power and turning into consistent silence. Nevertheless, something shamanistic and mythical still lives in momentary changes in our life, in seeming coincidences. This finally stands out because of the change from some accidental situation that accumulates and breaks out before one notices it. Changes brought forth by tiny errors and contradictions that cannot be seen with our eyes fill our reality with liveliness. This is why AN Gyungsu looks at the subject in the midst of a reality full of invisible changes and conducts his own form of learning, amongst the subtle landscape in between an idea based on rationality and an imagination based on senses. Otherwise, for the artist, withdrawing into himself in order to portray something is the only way he can walk when borders are vague and non-delineated. From this perspective his attitude is not one of creating an artwork that forms sympathy with others but an action of constantly and delicately adjusting his position between himself and the subject. Ultimately, he refuses to stay as mere, fixed observer and intends to slip into and mingle with the subtler moments, when its many thin layers overlap, in order to draw those moments in his unique style. Thus, AN Gyungsu stares at the fleeting changes, sensitively responds to the moment when the status turns over, and demonstrates ‘reality’ itself as he confronts and makes contact with it.

Seungoh SHIN (1975) is the director of Perigee Gallery. He studied art as an undergraduate and art history in graduate school. His consistent interest lies in the relationship of artist practice, artwork, and audience. He currently organizes exhibitions for middle-aged artists over forty, contests for curator and artist collaboration, and contemporary art education programming for the audience at Perigee Gallery.