[Iryo-Shia=Society Section] In the strict hierarchical society of Choseon Dynasty, master painter Shin Yun-bok depicted the dark phases of the times in a refreshing manner. The reason his paintings have an everlasting vitality is because they revealed the cross-section of a particular era. Though society has changed, there are still those who believe that the role of an artist is to paint the times. Artist Choi Yunjung's paintings are not heroic, but this is what makes them ever sharper.
Luxury designer-brand handbags are sold out as soon as they appear in TV dramas. Paparazzi shots of Hollywood stars holding Starbucks tumblers contribute to coffee sales. When baseball is popular the uniforms sell like hot cakes, and when mountain climbing is in fashion, mountain gear shops open one after another at the foot of the mountain. What are these people possessed by? Choi notes that people are wearing "glasses." The substance of the glasses pointed out by the artist is in fact "frames."
People with "Glasses"
"People use their eyes when they assess a certain situation or object. They interpret information and make judgments through their eyes. But what we see are mostly things that were made. It is the media that makes such manufactured images. By all means they are manufactured, but people believe that the 'visible image' is the real one. That is how great the influence of media is. People accumulate information and establish relations with others through media, and they gain their own perspective of the world. This is the frame. As long as they are exposed to media, no one is free from the frame... unless he is a wolf boy (laughs)."
All the figures in Choi's works are wearing glasses. According to the artist, they are not free from their environment, which is framed. The masses reinforce their frames through education or media. Choi is neither positive nor negative towards the fact that people have certain frames. Nevertheless, the new restraints of modern society, liberated from God(religion) and class, is still quite oppressive.
"I believe the domain of what people can do actively will gradually decrease. The system will make decisions and conclusions before to people. For example, the media gives you the desire to eat something even before you feel hungry yourself. In everyday conversation, everyone seems to be saying what they think, but if fact they are talking about something they saw somewhere. I wanted to express the times of nowadays where individual tastes are lost and everyone is swept away by desires roused by society."
There are no unnecessary things in Choi's paintings. A complete message is formed in a tightly organized frame with composition, color and texture. Her paintings, somewhat familiar but endlessly strange, appropriate the method known as defamiliarization in aesthetics. Familiar icons such as Starbucks and Coca-Cola create completely new significance in her works.
Artist Presents Works with "Glasses" - Satiric Criticism of Mass Media
"When people hear the word art, they only think of 'Happy Tears.' It's only 0.1% of the world, but distorted information is disseminated as if it is the truth. Perhaps society is changing so rapidly there is no time to look at it in-depth. For example, I inserted the word 'interest' in one of my paintings about marriage. Interest can mean concern, but it also means profit or claim in a certain relationship. I like to generate such meanings in my work."
Choi's works are evaluated as been very peculiar in terms of subject as well as style. Though there are some paintings that mimic her works, Choi says "in order to express my thoughts, the painting has to be different."
"All details are different, from color, composition and devices, to the expressions and skin complexion of the figures. When I held my first exhibition I had only painted the faces of figures with glasses, but gradually I added bodies and changed their proportions. I think that is how my paintings change. Actually one of the strong points of being an artist is that I can insist on the composition I want. I can put the message I want to convey in that composition."
According to Choi, "a characteristic of visual art is that it is difficult to grasp it in just one glance." She began to paint a few types of pictures and explained about "visual psychology."
Unique Subject and Style
Complete Harmony of Composition, Color and Texture
"When I have a solo show, I add paintings that enable viewers to think about something here and there. This is intentional. Texts with independent meanings create new images or meanings when they are combined with other text. Unnecessary devices are sometimes eliminated to maximize such effect. But I don't want all the spectators to think according to my intentions. I believe that pleasure is also important. I also tend to have fun when I work. We need people who analyze the works like art critics, and also those who just enjoy the paintings. It's no fun if everyone is alike."
Strange that is Not Strange
The works of Choi Yunjung, who majored in Art Education, is based on the understanding of various social science. Perhaps that is why we can see occasional glimpses of intellectual cynicism. Choi asks "Is it good to live without the glasses?" But on one side of the gallery a feeble hand locked in the gigantic system was being extended out in search of a crimson salvation. Is waiting for the future of humankind a mere dystopia left with only manufactured myths?