|The face of love or brightly colored days|
Kim No-am, expert advisor at Sejong Gallery
1. The era of pop
Unfolding are sophisticatedly and neatly constructed images and colors, kissing lovers, smiling woman, and refreshing and light life. After changing his tendency of work from a traditional landscape in Korea to typical pop art style, the artist has been expressing the landscape of changing visual culture in Korea during the 2000s in vivid colors and lively figures. Exceptionally bright images seem to converge the past and the future to the present. What feel graphics were brightly and gorgeously colored. Elaborately colored surfaces are organized into the very small details.
Looking at the works of pop art artists in Korea including those by Cho Gang-nam, the spirit and the characteristics in terms of pattern accommodated in the 1970s were passing through the 1999s when the pop culture and the media in Korea had developed explosively. And as they passed over the 2000s, the universality of the world's urban culture, rather than the peculiarity of the national boundary and culture, is inherent.
As we strip extremely sophisticated service industry and information and communication environment, fashion that instantly sweep the world, and formative and formal similarities away, the significance of pop that each artist thinks may vary. And the reflection of the world which each sees, true nature of human, and the real worth of life are reproduced into the images of pop.
It seems a natural phenomenon to appear pop art in a country or a city that has achieved a certain level of industrialization and economic system. The spirit and expressions of pop inhabit in a variety of media environments in a smart era including mass production, distribution, consumption, large cities, public and public culture, TV and computers. The 20th century when everything can be turned into signs and communicated, and individualism gains ground is the era when it is paradoxically impossible to be isolated as an individual. Private life and lonely life of an individual has become a legend from the past. People's images have become more and more universal and reflect average beauty and sentient rather than revealing unique individuality. If we express this in an aesthetic term, it would be "pop".
In retrospect, the present after the World War 2 has become more plural and complicated except for the mid-20th century when several isms were in the center and the flow of art has kept pace with this. Now each and individual artist has formed an independent world and this is an irreversible flow of the time. Deep feeling of isolation that the past community where they can bond and emphasize is no longer exist and brightly and gorgeously expressed human and the world opposite to this awareness; this weird polarity which is paradoxically bright and gorgeous in accordance with the depth of loneliness and isolation can be found in many pop art artists.
2. Women or candy girl.
The theme of my work is young women who live in the present.
I draw their life, love, and desires.
I call them candy girl. (From the work note of Cho, Kangnam)
An attractive woman on the big screen makes an eye contact with the audience. Around her were bittersweet candies and syrups floating around the background. It was as if the woman is giving a present of herself to the audience wrapped around with pretty wrapping paper. She makes me feel pleasant as I make an eye contact, though she is just an image. We form a relationship as if I am meeting a girl of my dream. She who can make myself forget the worries of real life is more attractive than any girl in reality and is comforting. She full of love and comfort appears the most pleasant eroticism in the world.
Looking at the latest works, nice-looking men and women are holding and kissing each other, sharing the feeling of love. The wind blows as well. There once was a poem by Yu ha called "let's go to Apgujeong-dong when the wind blows." The happy era of urban men and women metaphored in Apgujeong-dong; it reminds of the season of love. While Cho still expresses bright images of pop in technical aspect, he changed his strokes from very sophisticated and neat strokes from the past to more loose and scattered strokes which reveal the breath of the artist.
Drawing a picture, he directs the painting as if it were a scene from an advertisement.
On the gray background, he put on a designer clothe to a slender-figured woman, let her carry a luxury brand bag, and wear sexy high heels.
And as he complete the painting imagining her approaching her lover and kiss, there will be no negative words such as 'whose design?', or "whose brand?", but a fluttering to see a beautiful woman.
Although I cannot catch a flowing moment, I want to leave that beautiful moment on my screen forever. (From the work note of Cho, Kangnam)
Brands today are the synonymous with "I want to own". The ownership is a virtue whether it is an object or a subject of ownership. She who owns cool fashion and hot brands means the identity fused with the reality and fantasy.
The terms shopaholic that was in fashion not long ago can be understood in the same context. This shows a woman who finds her identity through goods and brands, which is not a unique character of one person, but a representation of the psychology of general women who live in the current market economy.
The world and life looked upon the eyes of a woman are bound to consist of reflection and introspection. No matter how dark and tired life can be, women, unlike men, should continue her life. Instinctively, women expand her ego and form altruistic relationship. In an exaggeration, warm and happy moments are only for women. Delicate and more precise gaze and relationship are the whole empathizing the images by Cho. While a woman can be a future of a man, the reverse is not true.
As the artist expressed in his work note, women survive in a world of objects surrounded by products and brands. Women strive for establishing their identities very sophisticatedly and attractively in any circumstances. Women addicted to products and brands instinctively reflect and introspect the original self. The experience of possession which has matured through the shopping addition paradoxically teaches the ability to stand and make a good use of capitalism of the market economy.
3. Face of love
All arts are sincere. Since the deep reflection on his or her psychologies, relationships with others, unusual interest and commitment to social phenomena and changes in nature are the common characteristics of artists regardless of appearances. Thus, as long as we are in the field of art, we cannot help but to be sincere, but to be serious, but to experience a lonely moment to look yourself in the face.
The artist sweetly expresses lovers floating in a non-gravity way while playing with the products as if they refuse gravity. While this can be an objectified eroticism, it paradoxical is sweet for this reason. The major tendencies of the lifestyle of modem women that has a continuous succession of non-boring moments are expressed in a private life of a candy girl. Painting by Cho can be summarized to the moment of love and delight. This can be called 'face of love', though it can be a general fantasy of general public.
Figures in the paintings gain materialized faces through the restoration of narcissus which can be identified to the audience. Dim and blurry faces become materialized and these are the concretized images of love making the focus for the artist and the audience. This maybe the most potent images of love that can survive as a symbol and can be distributed.
Figures made by Cho are nice looking men and women and are enjoying the very moment. Even if the moment is temporary, we can purely commit to and empathize. It is the moment that no struggle or pain can cut in. The audience pleasantly feels jealousy to the people in the paintings. Even the moment of jealousy itself is happy and delights. If the world truly become like this, all artists can be free of painful art. But too bright and beautiful moments remind of us a deep anxiety, depression, and unbearable pain, which is the tragedy of our life.
The meaning of life is that no one knows the meaning of it (Woody Allen). We are never happy nor full of love. That is why we desire that direction. It is an unstoppable impulse. We do not want to see only the back of love. We want to grab the passing moment of love in any way possible and face the face and eyes of love.
There are the worlds of images operating without strain, the healthy capitalism, and the joy and hope of urban life were in the images of Cho. However, what can save us is love. The audience faces the face of love hoping to be in the world of pop filled with love and peace while struggling with the human feelings of reality and social relationships.