20 Jan 2022 — 19 Feb 2022
Yeongbin Yoon
Soft Touch

Portable love, trees that bear firecrackers, skeletal being that dances flexibly. These are how Yeongbin Yoon refers to the objects present in her paintings. There is life within paintings. Bringing images to life has been the role of paintings across history, and this bringing-to-life was made possible by the painter-artist who was there to paint the images. And that painter who brings images to life? Such an ability is possible when the artist enjoyed good luck. That luck can be a spark jumping from the smallest event, a slice of the mundane, and even the most ordinary object.

For this exhibition, Yeongbin Yoon turned to objects in her everyday environment and painted objects and scenes that underwent the optimal processes for optimal outcomes. Her previous work featured screens and sculptural objects based on images collected from mobile environments. Her most recent works focus on painting found objects from real life. These objects include animal and plant cards purchased from the stationery store, train seat upholstery design, and window-scenes viewed from a car or from the studio. Yoon believes that these objects have exerted some sort of effort necessary to exist in that moment of space and time, and that her eyes had opened to them regardless of her will. In that spark of luck those objects yield space for another, color and forms are mixed and yielded, finding balance and harmony on the canvas surface. Like a singular image that brings together the likes of a pop-up window welcoming a user, a postcard wishing a new year’s greeting, or a congratulatory message wishing its recipient the best of things.

Luck finds those who seek it. Maybe for some, those objects may be far-fetched, trivial, or even just figments of fantasy. Yet for one who paints as a calling, such objects inspire habits and practices which bring luck. Exhibition title Soft touch comes from one such case of luck that fortuned upon Yoon. Softness at the tip of the fingers? One might imagine it being a reference or perhaps a layered expression, but it is from a lighthearted joyous occasion in her life. One summer day, Yoon was headed to her studio after lunch, and came across a stall on the street selling clothes, the panels decorated with fluorescent POP. Her eyes settled on a pair of jeans with an embroidered patch reading 'Soft touch when it comes to you'. The embroidered patch reminded something similar she saw on her mother’s favorite pair of jeans, and she just could not take her eyes off of them. That fleeting moment was ingrained in Yoon’s gaze and in her photo, with compelling composition and angles, captured for later use in her paintings. Years passed and Soft touch became a painting and the title of an exhibition.

As such, the object in Yoon's paintings flicker between landscapes and still life, both of which are outstanding outcomes of best possible choices. The Seasonal Card Series(2018-2020) which she presents in its entirety for the first time this exhibition, is a drawing of an animal and plant cards created for children's educational purposes. The face of the card contains a word to learn accompanied by an explanation, as well as a picture that represents said word. It is important to note that this seemingly innocuous deck of cards is quite limited in availability - not available at any franchise or stationary shop - only available at an old street vendor which has been open for decades. The same goes to the train upholstery design of (2021) or the teddy bear keychain in (2020), or the raspberry-scented lip balm package in (2021). The design of a seat upholstery worked perfectly with the scene outside the train - a rainbow sky. The keychain-teddy bear looked appropriately in its right place as an accessory on a motley-colored backpack. The lip balm packaging that seems to promise the world to the wearer. They all caught Yoon's gaze.

Paintings are often categorized into either still life or landscape, but the line between them is not clearly defined. In Yoon's works, objects blend together in harmony, to present one sound. They do not voice strong opinions individually. A still life painting is clear on what the focal point of the image is. Its background is painted using a color similar to the foreground focal point and blends in, seeping in and blurring boundaries. A landscape painting is concerned with the overall background and scope of the painting, with all individual objects connected as part of the whole, no clear boundary between foreground and background. About the four frames of canvas with seasonal cards, the artist describes it as "the seasonal azaleas caught in the card, the waterfall and trees were removed from the deck and re-attached into a single card" (artist notes, 2020). Every aspect on screen is mutually supportive, with appropriate colors, position, and form. Her definition of subjective rarity, joy, and auspiciousness are woven into a strange composition, like a cherished fantasy or a haphazard but wonderful composite image.

Yoon once described her paintings as "a vessel for the intent of giving only the best of things" (artist notes, 2020). A collection of the best choices and curations on a singular screen can only be good. What is luck but a collection of great things that align? Luck does not need to be a far-away thing that deserves only the most qualified auspiciousness. In deciding the exhibition title, she may have just as well wished that jean-patch for good luck. The tinder to kindle the flame of life within a painting can be such trivial icons of luck and good fortune, collected and augmented as the foundation. That moment of joy, wherever it was found, however trivial or mundane, cannot be commented upon or judged when before the will to give only the best.
Installation view