<The Scene Filled and Emptied>
Seung Oh Shin, Director of Perigee Gallery
JANG Jaerok works by basically drawing a lattice and then fills or empties each square one by one. The subject matter he has primarily adopted for his pictures is natural scenery or a digitalized artificial scene made for a computer game’s background. This subject matter is not immediately transferred to a picture but goes through a process of transformation depending on an arbitrary rule JANG has stipulated. The image he chose turns into a black-and-white image on a computer screen. This modified image is transferred to paper attached to the canvas after going through two phases. The form of an object is drawn in pale gray ink along its outline with no thought of grids. This rendition works as a sketch. An example is that thick ink coloring is employed if the sketch takes up a greater part of one square and the square remains empty if there are wider blank spaces. This seems to illustrate images by mechanically applying a binary system made up of 0s and 1s. The process of this seemingly intricate conversion is a methodology of great significance, and to discover why he adopts this method and its meaning is a measure of figuring out this exhibition.
The Square referring literally to a square means a regular quadrilateral-shaped pixel, the smallest unit of the grids JANG makes. This square in a grid is used as an independent individual space and as a frame applied with one single rule. JANG has chosen this factor, firstly, because it gives us a sense of stability. Secondly, he intends to represent our visual experience in space-time in his own two-dimensional pictorial surface. This space-time structurally covers both online and offline, i.e. the real and imaginary, not continuously staying in one dimension. To him, any visual experience is a series of processes that starts from perceiving an external, concrete object, converts into our internal abstract sense, and relates to our preexisting experience. This experience immediately and unconsciously recurs rather than converting based on some specific boundary. The artist, however, would not simply represent an emotion or thought that is an outgrowth of his own experience in some visual environment. What he has conceived for this is to control his intuitive, unrestricted expression using a grid. His brushstrokes restrictively move in squares, the basic unit of a grid, relaying the rule he set arbitrarily. JANG intends to apply the sense embodied by digital images to his work by regulating his own unconsciousness and lending mechanical judgment to himself.
The nature modified by the artist and the scene shown as a digital environment are like mirrors reflecting each other. This is because we tend to think that any natural image is as vivid as a digital image, and artificial images of nature in games look more and more real. The distance between the two has gradually become closer. And another reality is formed through a mutual link in which the real is influenced by the imaginary, not through the unilateral situation in which the imaginary simply imitates the real. JANG takes note of flatness to represent this reality in paintings. The grid in his work has a fundamental frame, but this is set as an unconstrained space at the same time. Each quadrilateral space also creates a large square space if seen as a whole. A square in a grid is able to reveal flatness as it is, and furthermore can create an illusory space by connecting many quadrilaterals diagonally and applying perspective. He experiments with such diverse possibilities in one scene at the same time. Black-and-white images altered from the original are not immediately applied to the grid, but a sketch is drawn again. The sketch here is not an accurate portrayal of an object, but leaves traces following a black form transformed into a black-and-white image. The vague object is entirely separate from its original background. And this sketch itself is drawn newly, but it is nothing but a template for judgment to paint black during the final stage of painting. The layers made up of a grid, sketch, and black square pixels are created by actions for conversion. The sketch is unconcerned with the borders of squares, and completely non-acting elements intercross. And, even borders of each black square disappear in its resultant black surface. We can infer the original object out of some concrete object-like images if we connect images of black ink to one another. Intriguing here is the empty squares to which nothing is applied. Each empty space in his work is not merely a blank space but another image, assuming the role of a new boundary in which we can perceive objects.
His work is an eloquent representation of his attempt to put the sense engendered by multi-dimensional space-time he experienced into his pictorial flat surface. His ideas can be gauged not only from his grids, but also from his colors. He adopts thick black ink while his sketches are drawn in gray using a middle-tone ink color. This helps to naturally remove any separation brought on by black and other colors. That is, adjustment of colors through this light and shade gives rise to effects when each square is fused, infiltrating into and separated from one another. This rendition seems to be realistic and practical due to regulated brushwork, a new texture is revealed by the expression of ink’s light and shade. Judging from the fact that the backs of works on show at this exhibition consist of the three primary colors of light, red, green, and red and a mixture of these colors, black he uses is to embody a condensed form by simplifying different colors. This expression aims to show that the imaginary and real are not clearly separated but transformed into one solidly connected whole world by seeping into each other. Thus, the scenes of nature and games he displays in his work don’t draw the line between natural scenery and game images in terms of color and form. His square pixels are still two-dimensional and silent, showing explicit effects.
JANG has kept a moderate distance from material nature and immaterial digital images. As reviewed so far, this is to view an object in an objective manner, thereby experimenting with flatness rather than projecting his emotion onto some object. This, however, gives rise to errors that have nothing to do with what he intended. First of all, it’s hard to paint one square completely and neatly. As strength applied to the brush is not continuously uniform, paint easily spreads outside the lines of squares. And if seen closely, the same black tone looks different as its light and shade and surface texture are not the same. When black appears continuously, boundaries are not identified because the quadrilateral grid disappears completely. What’s conspicuous is his intention to lend independence to each pixel and create another pictorial landscape from the viewer’s point of view that tries to keep connectivity and disconnectivity. For all that, he does not intend to express emphasis on any vertical movement as a vaguely fluid, endlessly flowing-down, and temporarily occurring event. His painting on display at this exhibition is a scene of a new reality in which the real and the imaginary that are indistinguishable in terms of content are linked to each other horizontally.
As examined above, JANG lays stress on painting’s flatness. This is to rethink the nature of painting varying in accordance with where the artist positions himself between a two-dimensional painting’s surface and interior, reality and imagination, representation and abstraction, and representation and existence. The title of this series Another Act is a reference to his own act not to unmask the subject of perception as he moves the post where the object he looks at is connected to his inner world and the surface of his painting, but to have the subject and object filter into each other on the flat surface of a painting, keeping their horizontal balance. Accordingly, his act of transferring something to his painting predicated upon some rule intercrosses space-time generated by what he intended and what he didn’t intend. As a result of this, the square scene we are looking at horizontally connects a space-time that gives rise elementally to a specific experience and brings about some difference. The painting he continuously tries to attain is in the end three-dimensional and a two-dimensional space-time in which reason coexists with emotion, representation with reality, and referentiality with materiality. In this way, ‘another act’ in his painting is to represent the meanings of a visual surface arising from multi-dimensional space-time, transferring one area to another and again overlapping this. This landscape constitutes his own pictorial reality in which square pixels form a scene while resembling, pulling and pushing one another.