SEOUL.- CHOI&CHOI Gallery
presents Jae Ho Jungs solo exhibition How long have I been I here, on view from 13 January through 25 February 2023. This is Jung's first solo exhibition with the gallery following the three-person show Moment to Monument in Cologne, 2020, and the group exhibitions Berlin meets Seoul and FLOWER in Berlin and Seoul in 2022. The artist is known for his realistic depictions of Industrial-era buildings that remain as remnants of Koreas history of modernisation. This exhibition features new works from his series portraying the area of Eulji-ro, Seoul, which he has continued over the years.
Eulji-ro was developed during Korea's rapid period of economic growth. It contains traces of its dynamic history but has since become an aging time capsule after decades of neglect. In todays era where skyscrapers built through vast capital and wealth dominate the skyline with their glitz and glamour, the areas remaining buildings testify to the forgotten stories of a bygone generation like lines on the face of an elder. The buildings worn out facades reflect the countrys attitude of denial and neglect toward its own tumultuous past and urge us to remember the lives that once dwelled behind the concrete walls the lives that endured and persevered. Jung accurately captures the visual characteristics of the district, and he has already presented these works in several exhibitions. Jung often paints the buildings from the front view as he faces these slowly vanishing relics. At first glance, his hyper-realistic paintings may seem dispassionate in their documentative approach, archiving the visual state of the neighbourhood down to its miniscule details. But the crux of his work does not lie in the superficial, but rather the "odour of life" that has permeated each surface. There is a distinct note of reverence and nostalgia as he collects traces of the countless, nameless people who lived through the transitional era.
After several years of continuing the series, Eulji-ro no longer remains mere subject of observation. "A place becomes scenery once someone lays their eyes on it," says the artist. For him, Eulji-ro is now a companion that has been with him through years. Its social significance as a cultural monument no longer takes centre stage and his own personal thoughts and emotions have come to play a larger role, making the task of recreating it all the more delicate. As the focus of his work gradually veered away from the specificities of the time period, Jung paid increasing attention to the process of painterly representation itself, striving to paint with the sensibility and consideration that befit his muse. Painting a scene that is under increasing threat of complete demolition also evokes a heightened sense of urgency than before. Perhaps in a futile attempt to resist the approaching fate, he freezes in his compositions the snowy winters, heavy monsoons, and sun-drenched Sunday mornings that he has shared with the district. But unlike the seasons that come back each year, the winter of his Eulji-ro now exists only in paintings. Facing a neighbourhood on the verge of becoming a distant past, the artist confronts his years spent immersed in it and captures the odour of his own life that has permeated the surface.
The title of the exhibition How long have I been Here is taken from a painting of an area near the Han River that the artist painted over 20 years ago. He continued to commemorate past narratives of a generation through the subject of surviving architecture, and now the buildings, too, have been left in the past. To the artist, the act of painting is a means to recall forgotten memories - a means to reanimate things that are buried in the past. As Jung pays homage to the district that has been with him through ups and downs, he looks back at his own thoughts and emotions that have resided in him over the years.
Jae Ho Jung (1971~) was born in Seoul, South Korea and majored in Eastern painting at Seoul National University and in Eastern painting at Seoul National University's graduate school. He was nominated for the prestigious Korea Artist Prize in 2018, co-organized by SBS Foundation and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Korea, and is currently working as a professor of Eastern painting at Sejong University. His solo exhibition has been held at CHOI&CHOI Gallery SEOUL, as well as at Sahng-up Gallery, Gallery Hyundai, Gallery Soso, Kumho Museum of Art, and many others. In addition, he participated in group exhibitions in Cologne, Berlin, Jordan, and Seoul. Work by Jung is held in various public collections, including the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul; Busan Museum of Art, Busan; Jeju Museum of Art, Jeju; and Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul.