By Chris Romeo
The work of Jahyun Seo borders a variety of mediums including textiles, painting, and digital art. From Seoul and based in New York, Jahyun is currently an artist resident of the NARS foundation. Jahyun’s latest series of works “seeing and being seen”, is an allegory for our present lives mixed between the physical and digital.
In many regards, the series plays with parallels:
darkness and light
bright colors and shades of black
information and disinformation
physical and digital
real and fake
In observing these parallels, Seo utilizes the term “seeing and being seen” to analyze how we view an artwork - how we process an image as information and the swell of emotion it makes us feel. To accomplish this, Seo follows a process of editing, layering, and transforming an image over and over again, to the point where it is hard to tell if the images might be linked. In this way the series is about transference, the paintings are the beginning of the series and they are transformed and warped into new digital forms.
In this essay, I will discuss describe the painterly form of Seo’s work in comparison to the digital images. From there the essay will discuss how our mind perceives the real and fake in today’s digitally saturated information fueled society.
seeing and being seen_0, 2016, Tapes and acrylic on canvas, 39.37 x 39.37 inches
The paintings in the series are grid like, interconnected panels that appear like architectural forms or textile patterns. Spread out in rectangular forms, they consist of various shades including blacks and blues; yellows and whites.
The paintings remind me of circuit boards and textile weavings. In both of those constructs, although one is technological, and the other is physical, a sense of data, connectivity, and information is present. The small details create a larger composition. The same could be said of these paintings. Each individual layer of paint, and each square, is a piece of information. All of them represent something separately, but come together to create a larger statement.
The paintings feel like the veins of a larger network. These veins form an organism. Together they tell a larger story, or create a larger network of thoughts and ideas. In a literal sense, the work is a representation of media culture and interconnected systems. Figuratively, as a painting, by commenting on the subject of media culture and interconnected networks, the works become about the individuals who we are interconnected with, and the world around us. Collectively we shape large networks.
Of course, as individuals we rarely think about this, we are so focused on our self representations. We do not observe what the world actually is, just what we want to see. In reality though, the world is an ecosystem that tethers us all together. In this way, seeing and being seen, is about looking at the larger picture, while examining the details and intricacies that tie it all together.
After creating the painterly compositions, Jahyun’s photographs and edits the produced images with digital tools. The ending results are compositions that feel familiar yet distant. Some appear as if they are cities, with pulses of light. Others feel like contained chambers representing a beating heart or pulse of information - like a neural network.
Chris Romero is a curator, writer, and artist interested in contemporary art and digital culture. Recently his work is especially focused on moving image, installation, and media art in Japan and South Korea. He has organized exhibitions at 3331 Arts Chiyoda and Rhode Island College; his curatorial residencies include the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, and Tokyo Wonder Site in Tokyo. His writing appears on his blog Window Sessions, and he has published essays in Massage Magazine, CBCNET, and Bound Baw. A graduate of New York University's Masters program in Museum Studies, he has worked for institutions including Princeton University, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and bitforms gallery.