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Images in Parentheses, Seen through the Passage or Mirror of Glasses
_Lee Seung-Hoon
 

In the work of artist Choi Yunjung, familiar images appear in artificially exaggerated large lenses of glasses. The images are those widely known to us through the mass media or those that seem familiar.

As the images are so familiar and seem as if they have been filling up the visual memory space of people, the masses accept such information with little criticism. It is at this point that the artist asks the question: "Is the substance repeatedly studied through the visual frames called media in fact the desires of modern humans?" And in the process of examining the reactions of such everyday images encountered in such media environment in a painterly manner, she apparently came to unravel the story of her work.

Thus, in her work we can often find the artist's views on how people see what they are made to see and buy what they are made to buy, rather than seeing or buying what they want, as well as metaphoric expressions of the situation of today's humans, who are in a chaos of choosing, feeling and thinking based on a sense of déjà vu, as if they saw something before even though it is their first time.

The images painted by the artist look as if they are manipulated without a filter of self-criticism. They are painted with a feeling of being locked in an artificial form.  This is the case of both the figures wearing glasses and the images within the lenses. The two types of images are only divided by the frames of the glasses. Though the images reflected in the glasses and the human figures related to one another through the frame as a boundary, despite the common artificial feeling, they are painted to indicate different layers depending whether they are inside or outside the boundary.

But why did the artist place such images in a certain tool called glasses, and magnify and exaggerate them before the spectators?

It is true that for humans to understand the world and live in their consistent value systems they had to have their own frames. Some philosophers called this "world view," but that is to say, every human being has a frame like glasses to see the world through. Some are aware that they are looking at the world through such "glasses-frames" but some are unaware of what color or what shape of glasses they are wearing. That is why subjective views are often mistaken for universal views and adhered to.

Artist Choi Yunjung places the glasses and the images reflected upon them on modern humans' faces like icons, as if she were trying to make them realize their rectangular frames and look into the mirror. 
 
The young children, women or men appearing in the paintings seem to represent diverse character against the background of contemporary culture, however, they are in fact nothing but stereotypical symbolic images dominated by the power structure of the media, and mere icons of desire made by such media environment. This is what the artist is trying to demonstrate through her works. 

Hence, the artist depicts modern humans' ways of seeing not only through the expressions of the figures, but also by selecting the symbolic object called glasses, and transforming them into frames resembling windows or TV monitors in an attempt to create a single context with the diverse frames, which come face-to-face with the icons of desire. By doing so, Choi is inviting the spectators to the consequent obscure and awkward situation. 

Therefore, it is more reasonable to read Choi Yunjung's works as an attempt to create a mirror-like painterly device to reflect on the substance called desire, which is made by the structure of mass media, rather than  as codes representing alternatives for commercial culture commonly referred to in criticism of previous British and American Pop Art, or commercial aesthetics taking advantage of consumer culture.

The artist wants to reveal the "way of seeing" or "desire structure" of modern humans through the very structure of the form being expressed, rather than "what is the narrative of the contents being expressed," and in this light it is necessary for us to note the conditions under which the images appear, rather than the indicative meaning of the images themselves, in terms of interpretation of the icons symbolizing manipulated desires in the mass media environment. 

By dispersing spectators' views through the significances created from the various combinations of visual frames and icons, and enabling the possibility of diverse interpretation, Choi Yunjung intends to leave the expansive relation of the parentheses, as the visual frames, and the images inside open to infinity, while withholding any judgment herself.

Thus, it is evident that her works often show two structures simultaneously―a certain figure and the world reflected in that figure's glasses―in the same way they induced innumerable views of a single world through a frame called glasses. The intension was to enable arbitrary interpretation of the relations based on the visual frames of spectators.

Ultimately, through her works the artist enabled spectators to encounter the interesting dual structure of parentheses within parentheses, or painting on the rectangular canvas and painting reflected in the glasses. By enabling them to experience the visual parentheses structure along the endless track of significance, the artist is inviting them to realize on their own the meanings and limitations of the visual frame in the era of mass media, where people consume images filtered by specific glasses.