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The Journey of Vision and the Period of Self-portrait

-JUNG Kangja in late 1990s

March, 1997 Kim Bokyoung | Art critic, Professor at Hongik University

1         For the last 10 years between 1980s and mid 1990s, we can clearly see what Jung Kangja's art world is like through her autobiographic essay called <A fantastic world of flame> <Dream, Illusion, and Challenge>. As you can notice by the titles of her work, she is a woman with flame, fantasy, and dream as well as strong will for challenges. I believe that anyone who has seen her just once would notice that this not only by acquaintance. This comes through every work of hers that holds passionate light and strong power.


She has been roaming around many back countries since the time of her stay in Singapore for five years. After traveling South-America in 1987, she recalled "I am determined not to travel again for I had very rough times, but as the time passes I was dying to go to Africa to seek may dream" and said that she must have vagrant habit just like a gypsy. Fortunately, I think that these two different characteristics hidden under the vagrant habit helps Jung Kangja to express her natures through paintings. As mentioned before, her love for dreams and fantasies which are bearded with flames and her ceaseless incitements to challenges are the two different characteristics.


2         In a single word, she wanted to paint bright images which can hold out her life. For this reason, these visions are not only a vision itself but also a <self-portrait> that she herself has experienced. In other words, to her the painting is not only an expression of a journey to seek her dreams but also the face and the mind of herself.


To seek true being of herself has made every effort to extend her knowledge firmly. She has been traveling over 30 back countries studying widely from manners and people to their primitive cultures. "Poorer and less civilized the country is the people's belief in local god get deeper. Seems to me everything that uncivilized natives made and draw for their local gods are work of art" said she. This comment reveals a part of her traveling experiences briefly. Needless to say, she was interested not only at the world's customs but also at our traditional cultural heritage. Mandala, tanghwa, moosok, danchung, and fork art provided her with so many ideas and inspirations, and above all, they incited her to open up herself and her dreams.


3         Jung Kangja's recent art works, especially the works of the late 90s, filters out the past ten years search and are based on it. In other worlds, her works came from the effort to build a world closer to her by excelling the past researches. Her sayings "For the past three years, I tried hard to change my art styles." Or "So many times I had to feel the pain of waking up from my sleep soaked with sweat. Then one day a good piece of art work came upon me but I felt that It was very familiar. The question soon met the solution. It was from the time when I was so absorbed in the batik, 17 years ago in Singapore. It was the work of my past. I realized then my style of art doesn't change whatever or however I try," in the "work note" seems to tell us the maturation of her art works.


In recent art works, she tries hard to express the lights and visions of her inner world and experience to bring herself into relief. Not only the images in <Portrait of a girl> <Portrait with the cow> <Scene with a horse> <The children are falling> <Even if the earth falls tomorrow> but also the art works of the size number 80 <Desolated landscape> <Tree laden with gem> <Spider> and small art works like <The child looking at the bird> <Knitting> <The lady looking at a mirror> are pedigrees of these. conclusion the exhibiting art works can be read as follows.


The first is a desolated field, which would be easily found in the back countryside of Africa, with no living except a girl changed into a marble statue. The second work shows dreary landscapes which lost its splendid natural color by pollution. The third is an illusion of her covering up many planets in the space all of sudden as she is knitting or her sitting on a coconut tree, knitting with a spider's web. Lastly, these are a group of people in a cold-hearted city whirling around the thick buildings.


4         What's specially noteworthy is that in spite of her vagrant habit, she paints the surrounding matters in a consistent style and in coloring she emphasis either on strong contrast or clear-cut features. Also she favors the three-dimensional shaping in her pictures rather than two-dimensional images.


This way she clearly expresses individuality of her own style in the work. Dashing off with almost one stroke of a brush or a picture painted as if the brush is dancing waltz, her inner feelings are expressed through slow but definite presentations. Symbolic and decorated things, in other words unplanned, surfaced, and filament element as well as her inner feelings rather than realistic simplicity, are revealed through subtle tonality. These are the characteristics of her recent work. So to speak, for Jung Kangja this private exhibition is very meaningful in a way that she can judge her transfiguration. And it is certain that this transfiguration actively mixes up all the journeys she had made and helps her to seek true existence of herself.

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