“Most of my images come to me when I am in between falling asleep and being awake. My head sometimes swims with odd images – which I sketch down on a notepad. Someone called the paintings my ‘night thoughts’… I thought that was funny. I feel the use of cuteness in my work draws the people in, making them feel comfortable. Then they come closer to the work and see that what they thought was happening isn’t actually happening at all, and some weird, twisted narrative is there. It’s that moment where they realize that it’s not what they thought it was that I like.”
Kyung Jeon’s first solo exhibition of paintings and drawings on rice paper, titled Chang-nan Minor, offers an idiosyncratic glimpse into the delicate nature of identity, sexuality, and personal politics. Jeon’s gracefully rendered works meld elements of her rich and storied heritage into a darkly humorous and endlessly inventive narrative, the content of which unfolds through a cast of mildly sadistic and largely female characters forever vacillating between adult and child, woman and girl.
Korean for “mischief,” chang-nan is used to refer to children when they are misbehaving, and with a cleverness and deftness that is characteristic of Jeon’s poetic sensibility, she turns the roles of adult and child upside down, frequently depicting women doing things girls would do, and little girls often doing things only grown women would do. Such inversions/subversions form the core of Jeon’s creative explorations and point to a fundamental notion of metaphoric conflict that runs throughout
Having experienced the devastating effects the Korean War had on her family, Jeon is no stranger to internal turmoil, and that too is echoed in her work by subtle and pervasive feelings of sadness and entrapment. However, the melancholy that drifts through her work is balanced out by an undeniable humor and lightness, and where lesser artists would simply sink into the troublesome pitfalls of self-conscious sentimentality, Jeon boldly confronts the complexities of her past by giving voice to an array of complex emotions and feelings ranging from humor to sadness, from vulnerability to anger, and from sexuality to sensuality; as if to say that it’s the multiple paths and practices we follow that make us who we are.
Tim Evans, 2004
May 13 - June 26, 2004