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Min Jung-Yeon's paintings question the notions of space and time

The Korea-born, France-based artist creates a dreamlike structure in her paintings to explore the conventions of space and time and open the world of renewed transformations.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Nov 27, 2021

The overflow of the forms and the excessive use of space in the paintings by the Korea-born, France-based artist, Min Jung-Yeon, open a fantastical world that defies the principle of linear perspective. The circular craters and the thick tentacle-shaped figures, ubiquitous in her works, encapsulate her idea of non-confinement in an effort to question the conventions of space and time. Unlike the fleeting appearance of the dreamlike structures, especially in the history of painting, that evoke a sense of disenchantment, Jung-Yeon ensures the viewers are deeply engrossed within the work to open the new possibility based on renewed interest and transformation.  

4 minutes | Min Jung-Yeon | STIRworld
4 minutes Image: Courtesy of Min Jung-Yeon and Galerie Maria Lund, Paris

The notion of transfiguration espoused by Jung-Yeon could be traced to her roots in Korea and her current home in France. In an interview with STIR, she illustrates how the transnational creative synergies - Korean and French - inform her art practice. “Experiencing two different cultures is very important in life, in general, especially when the Eastern and Western cultures are different enough. Being able to live daily in these two cultures is certainly for me an important source of creation,” she says. If on one hand, her fascination with the French philosophy propunded by Gilles Deleuze, “inspired a theatrical setting with my portrait in an ebullient and effusive space of identity collisions”, on the other hand, the Korean Taoism philosopher’s words "positioning yourself on the border is a rewarding adventure," imbibe her works. 

The staircase | Min Jung-Yeon | STIRworld
The staircase Image: Courtesy of Min Jung-Yeon and Galerie Maria Lund, Paris

Interestingly, her creative thoughts are not just determined by the philosophy but are acutely perceptive to her everyday experiences. Jung-Yeon affirms, “To play around perspective is to experience the strangeness of things.” She particularly observed this when she would play video games. “Just before arriving in France,” the artist declares, “I was addicted to video games. Whilst gaming, when I moved from one space to another, the set did not correspond to the speed of my movement. My character was then for a short second in an empty or basic setting as if it was lost in another space-time. This seemed very strange to me and it led me to reflect on the notion of space-time.”

Min Jung-Yeon in her studio while working on Weave | Min Jung-Yeon | STIRworld
Min Jung-Yeon in her studio while working on Weave Image: Courtesy of Min Jung-Yeon and Galerie Maria Lund, Paris

The arresting unsettling nature of Jung-Yeon's paintings, be it 4 Minutes, Sleep,or The Staircase – if open a space to access metamorphoses, it neither proposes the end of the world nor the pure void. Borrowing the idea of liminal spaces from the writings of Carlo Rovelli, a quantum physicist who explains the notion of space-time in today’s science as "What you see can’t be real, it’s just an illusion”, nurtures her paintings. However, the inquisitive mind would like to know Jung-Yeon's processes and techniques that translate conceptual thoughts to tangible reality. Jung-Yeon explains, “It took me a long year to free my drawing and painting techniques. I had always thought that the element of unpredictability in my paintings and papers was something disturbing. I thought that creation is a thing entirely mastered and conceived by the artist. Even before I started, I had the final image of my work in my head. But I gradually felt locked up inside myself and my creative process was increasingly stifling me.” She expresses this struggle exquisitely through her words, “As if I had designed a well-decorated theatre setting, but without action, without actors, without noise, something empty.” 

Vessels in silence | Min Jung-Yeon | STIRworld
Vessels in silence Image: Courtesy of Min Jung-Yeon and Galerie Maria Lund, Paris

Taking these moments of scepticism as a way to recognise the path of self-reflection and corporeal productivity, she mentions, “I began to find freer ideas and emotions and to distance myself from my long-held ideas. I thought that the unpredictable that occurs spontaneously could also be good elements of expression. It is then simply a matter of welcoming them or dismissing them. Accepting them or not depends on the artistic vision. Since then, I invite these elements into my work process which gives more freedom to my paintings and drawings.” 

Our long summer in the rain | Min Jung-Yeon | STIRworld
Our long summer in the rain Image: Courtesy of Min Jung-Yeon and Galerie Maria Lund, Paris

The conceptual depth was made, once again, visible in her latest installation Weave. The immersive installation saw the large-format drawings and birch trunks drawn on paper to bring the ideas of time and memory engaged in Korea and France to the fore. As a space of reconciliation, Jung-Yeon admits, “I had a lot of fun twisting space-time in my own way by installing kaleidoscopic mirrors so that the public could penetrate my universe more deeply. A universe with a strange mixture of memories and emotions; I was hoping that eventually the spectator would lose his/her own notion of space-time, and begin to doubt.”

The attempt to underline the art practice with an array of conceptual theories nowhere intends to overpower the paintings or the viewers. She describes this as, “Today I am always looking for space where I want to be, but also a free space where the spectators can enter, feel and hear the emotions that I put forward.”  Even if she creates her work from a well-defined position, she does not insist on disseminating an opinion. Like the overflow of the forms, the viewers are encouraged to enter her world and find its meaning.

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