Going beyond the limits of the conscious

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Going beyond the limits of the conscious

Artist Mee-young Chung says she is interested in exploring “archetypes.”
She uses the term in reference to Carl Jung, who used symbolism from complex mystical traditions like alchemy and Gnosticism to describe the human psyche.
“I wonder if there is any point in making art if art is simply meant to add meanings to sources of our reality, and those meanings confine people in what they see,” says Ms. Chung, “because I believe art on a fundamental level should tackle freedom, not subjugation.”
Indeed, images in Ms. Chung’s works are filled with familiar signs encoded in our unconscious, whether it be moving hands covered in long women’s gloves, a chair, hats or shoes. Yet these images in her work are never presented in ways that openly explore the meanings they convey conceptually or culturally.
Chairs, for example, have been used in Western art as a frequent symbol of power and authority. In Ms. Chung’s work, however, they are used to distort the cultural connotation of the object.
In one of her paintings from her recent installation, “Wind and Fantasy,” at Gallery Chosun, she depicts a chair set on a rug decorated in elaborate floral patterns, as if it is inviting the viewer to sit on it.
In another work, a sofa, which is made up of polyester resins and chain wire, turns into a fragile object that is too unsettling to sit on, contradicting the conventional association of chairs as a source of comfort.
Then again, the artist doesn’t seem to consciously create these parallels, but rather allows these contradictions to occur freely.
“I try to stay away from concepts unless they’re really needed,” she says, “because I see with postmodernism how limiting what we call the conscious is.”
In her installation for the current exhibit, Ms. Chung collects various images shot at unusual angles from amusement parks, ports and tunnels, and projects them onto a gallery wall and a sofa made out of chain wire.
The images on the wall, which vaguely give an idea of the settings if one takes a careful look, provide a dream-like feel to the space. But it’s clear from the way the scenes have been edited that the images are deliberately meant to blur the context of the place, rather than to give meanings.
Such attempts are also seen in the way Ms. Chung shapes or arranges her objects, such as chairs and sofas, which are often distorted or hung from a ceiling to prevent the audience from seeing the work as a representational object.
Sexual imagery is everywhere, from seductive gestures embedded in a hand with moving fingers, the back of a sofa designed with tiny bumps resembling nipples, or the paintings of chairs which deliberately make reference to the human body.
References to feminine motifs appear often as well, such as shoes, flowers or dressy satin gloves, or in the use of video projection in her works in general, which always rotates in circles around her sculptural objects as if to embrace the objects in the room.
Perhaps the title of the exhibit provides clues to what the artist is getting at.
In her artist’s statement for the exhibit, Ms. Chung uses “wind” as a metaphor for direction for her art-making, an essential energy that exists separately from the cultural constructions of our surroundings.
“Once you throw away the artificial judgment,” she writes, “the natural rhythm of things seems to lead the direction of the piece. Works that have been created in this way resist any form of easy interpretation, existing as a separate entity.”


by Park Soo-mee

“Wind and Fantasy,” an exhibition by Mee-young Chung, continues through Nov. 5. For more information call 02-723-7133.
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