Moon Kyoung Eui’s solo exhibition 'Peach Bonfire - On the Use and Abuse of Art History' opened on Friday November 13th at Art Direct Outlet. The exhibition contains candy-coated imagery suggestive of the three ideas of art that occur to every student pursuing art in Korea (or their personal canon of art history); exposure to animation as an inspiration for pursing art, the pressure to gain technical skills for the sake of getting into college, and the reality of theory-based (within a western ideology) education of art actually taught at these schools.
The first forms of art accessible to children are in the forms of toys, child-centered advertising, and cartoons. As adults, we become aware of the amount of labor that goes into children’s markets, but as children we simply enjoy the end-products in the form of attractively-designed playthings, soft surfaces, bright colors and the non-intimidating shapes of movies and television shows. Many children continue to draw in a way reminiscent of these encounters, and some will go on to pursue that as an interest. In the exhibition, the references to these early art-making forms are jaded but nostalgic for their former naivety.
As a student gets older, they will be exposed to an increasingly academic sort of art, one especially suggestive of classical western antiquity. Adolescents are pushed continuously in a technical direction in their own process, one that obscures individuality and personal expression. The art test for getting into school has its own separate mention in “Pop Popop Popopop Pop” as its notoriety is known in its own right: a composition consisting of a water bottle, a carton of milk, and a flower.
Should the student continue to pursue art in college, they will be faced with a hyper-conceptual education that focuses more on art as a concept than art as a process. This “new school” favors intangible ideas well-justified over well-executed work, and this issue persists in art schools globally while the quality of art overall has suffered. The neo-pop portraiture combined with glossy surfaces explores these ideas with acridity but tact.
The paintings themselves are formally very female-centric, and with the addition of over-the-top gaudy wooden furniture creates a female-directed space that is soft yet exuberant. The English title itself “On the Use and Abuse of Art History” at first glance could just as well be talking about two different bodies in art; that of art history and that of the female form in art (both used and abused historically). Every piece is both of a woman or references femininity, and with art history’s struggle to portray women as anything other than muses, these ideas create an interesting tension. Women’s bodies and male-/euro-centric art history are juxtaposed over the artist’s personal journey to find her own creative voice. All the subjects stare vacantly at the viewer or cast their glance downwards in defeat, and the non-acknowledgement of the viewer in the cartoon-based work only adds to their unreality. The non-figurative work is heavy in suggestion of art-theory and/or nontangible femaleness in art.
As a foreigner educated primarily within the canon of euro-centric art history, this exhibition was an eye-opening experience into the artistic experiences of Korean artists, and a dynamic and intriguing view on what that meant for Moon Kyoung Eui.
The exhibition will run from November 13th to the 29th and you can see it at the newly renovated Direct Art Outlet in Sindorim so be sure to catch it before it’s gone! To find out more about Moon Kyoung Eui you can visit her tumblr here. To find out more about everything that happens at Art Direct Outlet you can check their facebook page here.