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Painting, between Reality and The Surreal


Kim Noam


There is no doubt that painting reproduces reality. However, whether the reality they represent is universal and one that everyone agrees with will be revealed through more time, relationships, and a process of critical interpretation of meaning. Reality is like a maze, and the way we relate to that reality is also diverse. A person who has fallen in a maze, a person who hesitates at the entrance just outside a maze, or a person who observes the maze. The authenticity of a painting depends on how well each person's world is connected with the real world they commonly belong to.


If the works of Ryu Noah, Shim Woohyun, and Ahn Doojin, who have been awarded Chongkundang Yesuljisang in 2013, can be grouped into a category, they can be viewed as paintings close to Magical Realism or fantastic realism, the literary trend (technique) of Central and South America in the 20th century. In the field of visual art that has experienced surrealism in art history, the combination of painting and literature is neither new nor uncomfortable. Magical Realism resembles reality, but the incongruent sceneries bring confusion into the customs and practices, prejudices and learned responses, generating unfamiliar emotions and point of views. It may be an example of an aesthetic adaptation of social criticism. Considering what traditional images can do in the highly complex web of visual information and language, it may have lost the link between the world and reality that painting had long ago. The creation that rises up against the gravity of the existing reality is surreal. Contemporary painting naturally borrows that power.


Looking at the contemporary paintings of young artists in our art world, excluding established and elder artists, they can be divided into two trends in terms of form and style, even though such categorization may reflect a certain degree of simplistic and mechanistic approach. One is the tendency to have so many events, forms, and images on the picture plane intricately fluttering, and the other is the tendency to blur the landscape of reality, as if only drawing or flirting for a little while, without a sense of full engagement. Abstract painting is excluded here, as abstract art in our art world has weakened, and the recent trend in paintings by emerging artists represents a relatively small portion of abstract art which also receives less attention. Recently, as interest in Dansaekhwa rose, abstract painting is taken seriously by elders and established artists. However, in the case of artists of the younger generation, abstraction is more developed in the form of objets, installations, and media art connected to conceptual art rather than painting. Therefore, it is more natural to understand abstract painting in connection with conceptual art.


The reason we become so easily intoxicated with our dreams is because no matter how happy and perfect the reality can be or how lively the reality can be, we are bound to feel dissatisfaction. This is because the perfect reality, the ideal reality, is not realized in the reality we live in. The reality where desire and the fulfillment of that desire meet is directly next to the surreality or the dream. We feel anxiety being on the edge of that borderline. Painting attempts to capture the real and the surreal at the same time through the artist's labor. It tries to understand and empathize. Surrounded by dreams and fantasies, the artist easily travels between reality and the surreal. Surreality often refers to delusion or lack of reality, inability to adapt to reality, or incompetence, and for this reason, it is dismissed as something to be excluded and discarded. Therefore, artists who immerse themselves in a world beyond reality are often understood as strange or eccentric beings to ordinary people. However, we can find some inspiration leading to reflection in them.

The 2th Chongkundang Yesuljisang

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