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Four Thoughts on the Border of Real and Unreal
_Lee Seung-Hoon

An exhibition will be held, where four artists who have worked in their own particular areas will attempt to have a formative conversation about a single theme through their unique story-telling methods in a single space. The artists are: Choi Yunjung, who tries to convey social messages in pop-art-like images, Kang Haein, who makes an interactive space with various sensors and captures memory-emotions from people’s individual experiences, Baek Kyoungho, who replaces symptomatic signs of inner obsession with certain characters to create a story, and Oh Jeong il, who has inquired on the border of matter and vitality by making detailed paintings of individual hairs for the past 10 years, and now paints the energy or vitality that has sustained humans, matter and nature. Their proposition for the exhibition, real/unreal, could be considered heavy, but the artists chose a method of each adopting a sub-theme of fantasy, simulation, fiction and illusion, thereby linking their thoughts on the real/unreal with their existing works in a omnibus form. By doing so, their individual works encounter one another and reveal themselves as a single story, thus stimulating interest in the stories of the field. 

If we say perception of the real takes place in the relation between the subject and object of observation, fantasy would have to be considered as something in the realm of unreal imagination; however, fantasy as a painting visualized through formative expression may feel like a mediator between the virtual realm and real realm. In this sense, artist Choi Yunjung expresses imaginary or dream-like images in her picture-planes concerning the desires of the observer for the observed. These images, which are contained in a certain frame called glasses, covering the two eyes of the figure in the work, are perhaps an illusion or an aspect of fragmented realities shown to those living in this era and society, who have been replaced by stereotypical characters.

Kang Haein prefers low-tech machinery over high-tech electronics in showing spectators her thoughts or emotions triggered by personal experience as variable and flexible phenomena. In this exhibition also, Kang shows the position of humans wandering in the urban structure through a formative space installation made with pipes, under the title “Hailing Distance.” In a strict sense, this work is not a direct display of hyper-reality or augmented reality. But Kang’s fragmental arrangement of senses, based on interactive technology, produces an irony of enabling spectators to sense reality derivatives of the matrix encountered in the space from the probabilities of individual experiences.

Artist Baek Kyoungho not only makes images of humans, but also makes his canvases in the shape of humans. The fictions made by creating such characters serve as tools to reveal the relations between individuals and the society they live in. The artist notes that each individual has certain symptoms, but the society divides people into normal and abnormal based on this standard. But from a certain viewpoint, the faltering inner balance of humans can be reflecting multiple personality, and at the same time, in the sense that such symptoms are formed within the social structure and relations, he intends to discuss this issue in the exhibition. That is to say, the artist is creating a story that “voluntary inner pulverization takes place due to the human genital.” His work for this exhibition visualizes a certain fiction into images, thereby creating a device to stress his opinion that humans’ multi-layered inner structure and symptoms are linked to the division process of society.

While the earlier-mentioned examples are based on fiction and imagination, illusion refers to perceptional error regarding the subject. But it is true that there is a point of connection between artist Oh Jeong il and the examples mentioned earlier, as he intended to give a three-dimensional illusion by painting a three-dimensional space of illusion on a two-dimensional surface. Oh paints hyper-realistic scenes of hair or spouting water fountains. But he juxtaposes such realistic images of illusion not on photographic ordinary space, but a space permeated with painterly atmosphere. Based on the idea that humans or matter in nature are connected by a fundamental system, the artist does not separate the subject of observation as an object, but tries to make it converge in the painterly space, which has remaining traces of contemplation, but also maintains the structure of photographic reality at the same time. The artist seems to be saying that dichotomy of the subject of perception and the object called matter may be a certain illusion, and will gain a single horizon within the artist’s thoughts. Thus, he seems to be trying to absorb the reality of the object into a Eastern thought structure, such as “forming one body with all things,” rather than following Western realism, which paints matter as an objective subject. Through this, he appears to be searching for a transformation of hyper-realistic painting. 

Thus even though these four artists have different forms and contents in their works, in a way they are all related to the ontological situation of the real or unreal, and judgment of the diverse information sensed by the visual structure differs according to how the subjects and objects are related. The very fact that they are exhibiting their works in the same space may be seen as an encounter of formatively incompatible elements or a visually unharmonious space, but in the meantime, their works and exhibition methods of trying to observe their ontological positions as contemporary artists and to share this with spectators can no doubt be evaluated as a good attempt to formatively examine issues of vision and perception in an era of obscure borders in determining what is real.