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Waterlilies Series: Catalog of Kyung Jeon at Kukje Gallery
June 10, 2013 by Kyung Jeon
Here is the cover of my catalog from my show at Kukje Gallery with all the pieces from the Waterlilies series. There is a great essay written by Jeesun Park that is definitely worth reading:
KYUNG JEON: WATERLILIES
Essay by Jeesun Park
Waterlilies consists of a series of ambitious new work by Kyung Jeon. The exhibition includes a mural-sized triptych as well as smaller vignettes each of which explores diverse narratives. The artist's stories are animated by both fact and fiction, real life and fantastical stories from the past and present, as well as Jeon's personal biography as a first generation Korean American, all of which are brought together into a whimsical fairytale.
Jeon’s work draws on diverse influences ranging from children’s fairy tales, traditional Korean genre paintings and the works of canonical painters such as Hieronymus Bosch and Henry Darger. Jeon has developed a recognizable style of painting which is immediately inviting. She presents a light-hearted and innocent world depicted in pastel-toned images of semi-nude girls and cheeky little boys. However, upon closer look, the works reveal an alternate reality brimming with acts of violence and earthly pleasures. The dark and light themes are woven together in dynamic compositions to draw the viewer in and allow them to reconsider their own nostalgic reality.
Her Waterlilies capture an arcadian world inspired by Claude Monet’s seminal series Water Lilies. The gentle setting is framed as a paradisical microcosm for children only to slowly betray its more sinister identity as a place for wickedness and sorrow. From swimming and playing to drowning and separation, Jeon presents numerous stories within the series. Each of the stories are based on a combination of personal or historical references which have been transformed into a fictional narrative. These narratives should be seen in light of the fact that her family was divided by the Korean War as her grandparents escaped and left behind their entire families in North Korea, thereby creating gaps in her family history. Jeon, hindered from finding out the full story by either language barrier or possibly because of embarrassment, or trying not to open closed wounds, finds that the past remains a mystery and stories are lost-in-translation. Through the Waterlilies paintings, Jeon explores storytelling by a means of filling-in, reinventing, and re-sorting gaps in her history.
Interwoven into a complex web that has no beginning or end, the disparate stories embody paradoxes between innocence and wickedness. The characters portray narratives based on a complex marriage of fear, trauma and conflict as well as childlikejoy and emotional maturity. They touch upon universal human experiences which frame the world in a much larger setting by drawing attention to the hidden and the visible, the past and the present, and reality and fantasy.
Kyung Jeon was born in 1975 in Jersey City, New Jersey. She studied art and philosophy in Boston College and received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, NY. Jeon is the recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2009) and was the Associate Artist in Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, funded by the Joan Mitchell Foundation (2009). She has held numerous solo exhibitions including Savannah College of Art and Design, and participated in group exhibitions in museums and galleries in Asia, U.S.A., Europe and South America, including Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul. Jeon lives and works in NYC.
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