Easy to Please
Originally, Sangyoon Yoon painted with his right hand. His early paintings are realistic and sophisticated, showcasing his outstanding skills for delivering complex and symbolic narratives. For example, Switch-Off 2 (2011) shows a man speaking through a megaphone, surrounded by people soaking in water, as if taking a bath. Based on the title of the work, however, the man’s voice does not seem to be getting through. For Yoon, painting served as the ideal medium for creating scenes of such absurdity, often in colors with low saturation.
But in 2016, Sangyoon Yoon decided to restrict himself by trying to paint with his left hand. Lacking fine control of his left arm and hand, he struggled with detailed and realistic descriptions. Also, the long hours of work became more arduous with his left hand, so that his touches eventually became simpler and faster. Perhaps most challenging of all, the movement and strokes of the brush seemed to be executed by a completely different person. But his new technique offered at least one major advantage; no longer able to rely on existing painting conventions, he worked with more abbreviated expressions, enabling him to hone in on the core values of painting, such as materiality and spontaneity. Since then, Yoon has alternately painted with both hands, developing two distinct aesthetic worlds, as if there were two artists living inside him.
As his left-handed painting became more concise, the brushstrokes were emphasized on canvasses dominated by vivid colors that radiated beauty through their diverse palette, brightness, and saturation. Unlike his right-handed works, characterized by surreal themes with an almost architectural composition, Yoon’s left-handed paintings tend to depict people in scenes that resemble spontaneous, candid photographs. With their short, covert titles, these works resemble concise or compressed pictorial records of actual events, distorted by the derangement, delusion, and ambiguity of memories that flash through the mind.
The exhibition title Easy to Please might be a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that Yoon’s sensuous and intuitive left-handed paintings often have more immediate appeal than his right-handed paintings, which require much more time and effort. Or it might express feelings of envy and anxiety towards the mysterious, free-spirited people in the left-handed paintings, who seem like characters in a novel. But the fundamental allure of Sangyoon Yoon’s left-handed paintings comes not from these characters, but from what they reveal about the artist’s own body, memories, desires, and identity.
The left-handed paintings are imbued with a soft, uncanny feeling that revives the taste of experience, which may lurk in their neutral or atypical expressions: faces without clear features, blurred boundaries between people and space, and extremely bold primary colors that may have come from the uninhibited brain of a reptile. That is, while the right-handed paintings are saturated with the fundamental pain that crushes humanity, to the point that they almost trigger the pineal gland, the left-handed paintings radiate with emotions that counteract that pain. Through this ambidextrous world, Sangyoon Yoon seems to shake the vertical hierarchy of right-handed painting with a horizontal order. Or perhaps the left-handed paintings are seeking to overthrow the right-handed paintings by enlarging their claim on existence, like a monster in the ego.
from review by Namsu Kim (art critic)