Still, I See
Kyung-Ryul Yang’s paintings are distinguished by intense colors and brushstrokes, along with a mode of composition or editing that integrates multiple scenes into a single image. His paintings, which can be well described as “expressive,” combine various images and incidents that he has personally seen or experienced, which might include a stage play (Unseen Forces and A Verbose Speaker); European cathedrals and streets (Two Landscape, The Spirit of the Age, Three Sisters, Dreaming of Moving, Tugging Man on the Street, and Tugging Men in the Light); ordinary indoor spaces (A Verbose Speaker); refugees on a battlefield (Three Sisters, Dreaming of Moving); a public square in Seoul and a childhood group photo (That Was Just the Beginning); a protest site (On the Street); or a natural landscape (Tugging Man on the Street). Summoned through memories or scrapbooks, these images are juxtaposed or divided upon the pictorial plane, sometimes even appearing upside-down.
Empirically, when we see inverted images, we view them as reflections, as if we are looking at the surface of a lake, stream, or pool. In Kyung-Ryul Yang’s paintings, however, two very different images might be inverted from one another, without even the surface of the water dividing them. Even though the differences between the two images quickly become apparent, our mind still clings to the perception that they are reflections, enticing us to ponder the interrelationship between the two. The result is a type of schizophrenia, leading us to conclude that all events are cross-referential, that the world consists of every possible sentence, that everything exists on the reverse side of everything, etc…
By suggesting the convergence of everything within a painting, Kyung-Ryul Yang revises the very essence of painting itself. For him, painting is merely a device for reducing events, images, and memories to color, brushstrokes, and application. The materiality of a painting serves as a medium through which viewers project their own physical and material presence. Viewers oscillate between two different perceptions, simultaneously regarding the characteristics of the paints on the canvas and the events that they represent. In painting, political, social, and historical events are continuously reinterpreted and newly appreciated through the physical aspects of the painting. Viewers are led to shuttle between two incompatible areas of perception, such as detail vs. context.
Yang’s pictorial thinking is exemplified in his small oil paintings, such as Landscape With Statues, Go Astray, Enjoy the Scenery, and Enjoy Comfort. In general, these works seem to have been painted very quickly, with free and spontaneous brushstrokes. Most viewers will not immediately realize that the titles seemingly refer to the feelings of the people inside the paintings, who have been reduced to rough blotches of paint. The discovery that a few dabs of colored substance represent a nude couple engaging in erotic activities immediately transforms the entire atmosphere and landscape of the work. The materiality of the painting and the context of the theme collide, acting as the two main forces that draw the fragmented world into an ostentatious process of identification through juxtaposition, reversal, concealment, and synthesis. The artist never stops planning to subsume the ever-changing world into a pictorial device through the process of “seeing, and seeing again, and still seeing.”
Looking at something is a story about the reverberation between the seeing subject and the seen object. The act of looking transmits a certain energy, and as we know, energy exists in the form of waves. Hence, energy exists as reverberation, and all of these reverberating energies attract each other. This is how we are able to see, feel, and recognize everything around us. Likewise, matter can define and prove itself through our gaze, that is, the energy of the observer. Matter is simplified by the viewer and finds its own modes of existence as both a mutual exchange of energies between the viewer and the viewed object and as a necessary condition by which each enables the other to exist. Kyung-Ryul Yang is an artist who deals with the relationship between two or more objects or substances with different characteristics. This mutual exchange of energy permeates every aspect of his painting, including looking, remembering, and thinking.
“All at once, I ask myself how I am doing” by Daesik Im (director of ARTERTAIN)