4 Oct 2018 — 3 Nov 2018
Hyunsun Jeon
Black Green Mouth

Colorful geometric shapes neatly stacked on the canvas, the faint drips of paint and brushstrokes betray an otherwise seemingly layered composition of mixed media. What reason could this possibly have, and why have they been composed in this way? The gaze draws only further questions. It offers no exposition nor apology. Paintings rarely do.

Hyunsun Jeon's previous works incited something of a story to the beholder. Although they did not provide detailed narratives, her past works were based on her record-keeping of personal experiences. Jeon's past works presented the strange and unknown otherness, even the conflict and misunderstanding between the self and all that is not the self, embodied by the figures and objects, or by the way they were composed and arranged within the frame. It is not an event she describes. It is an ambiance, an unfolding, an ongoing trail.

That faint ambiance is intruded upon by a cone, perplexing the gaze and stamps in a narrative pivot. Like the mute function on a media device, the cone interferes with immersion into the story. The unfolding trail that did not translate into visible form, those unanswered problems precipitated and crystallized into the form of a cone. How does one comprehend, much less explain the complexities between the self and everything that is not the self? Thus simultaneously, the cone is a placeholder for something that escapes visual description, and a blinder for what it might be.

A collaborative effort with another artist for a 2016 exhibition was a turning point for Jeon. The experience made her want to paint images removed of stories. Before then, establishing a story and delineating the context had been a constant challenge. It was here that the cone had a decisive role. It served as a mechanism that delayed the end of the story, both the point of ingress and egress. With the story removed, any symbolism or role of the cone is also removed. Divested of imagination and demystified, the cone is nothing but one of many forms painted on canvas. That is to say, the geometric forms painted by Jeon are both unique and ordinary.

Gone are the specific objects loaned from reality. This solo exhibition is filled only with colored geometric shapes. If anything, they might be called abstract. Yet Hyunsun Jeon paints in denial of both the concrete and the abstract. Even while her brush strokes painted geometric abstractions, her inner eyes were set on the concreteness of sheets of colored paper. Painting colored paper is rather nonsensical, as any description of an actual subject, an image describing an original thing, can only be compared to what it depicts, and it is bound to fall short of what it is seeks to depict. There is no right or wrong in painting colored paper. The painter need not worry if the painting resembles the actual.

Perhaps we ought to look deeper beyond the shapes and to the nonchalantly painted dark lines, drawn like shadowy boundaries between the shapes. The illusion of depth created by the shadows is too wispy to offer substance to the flatness of overall painting. The cone provides a sense of boundary between the geometrical shapes, while also blurring the lines between the concrete and the abstract, delaying anything conclusive.

Jeon explains that she sought to create images that were concretely abstract and abstractly concrete, like a chiral pair simultaneously present. Neither concrete nor abstract, the artist's paintings present no definitive conclusions, denying anchorage to any meaning. The cone is not far removed from her earlier works where identifiable subjects were in conflict within a definitive context of a story. The realm between the imaginary and imitated, symbolic and the sensed, dictated and the implied is that of the image, not language. Conflicting elements of the paintings are entangled and dissolved in visual harmony.

Imagery requires interpretation, but Jeon's paintings cannot be decoded, as she says "I do not wish to paint the obvious." She is not interested in painting the self-evident. To understand the ephemeral, the trivial, the obscure she puts on the canvas, we first need to learn how to appreciate its muted silence. Seeking logic and verbalizing every image when there ought to be none is sometimes the inexplicable behavior of one who would read before they see.
Two Cones, watercolor on canvas, 162.2x130.3cm, 2018