Essay by Jeesun Park
Waterlilies consists of a series of ambitious new work by Kyung Jeon. The exhibition includes a mural-sized triptych as well as smaller vignettes each of which explores diverse narratives. The artist's stories are animated by both fact and fiction, real life and fantastical stories from the past and present, as well as Jeon's personal biography as a first generation Korean American, all of which are brought together into a whimsical fairytale.
Kyung Jeon (b. 1975) work draws on influences as diverse as children's fairy tales, traditional Korean genre paintings, and modern canonical paintings. Her playful and often dark stories are based on a combination of personal and historical references that upturn static themes of childhood and innocence. Known for her subtle application of traditional and contemporary painting styles, Jeon paints on rice paper mounted to canvas. Exploiting the rice paper's traditional reference to Korean folk painting alongside her own funny and uncanny themes the artist is able to explore the intersection of past and present.
Jeon's paintings are immediately inviting, presenting a light-hearted and innocent world depicted in pastel-toned images of semi-nude girls and cheeky little boys. However, upon closer look, the works reveal an alternate reality brimming with acts of violence and earthly pleasures. The artist is adept at weaving these dark and light themes together in dynamic compositions that draw the viewer in and allow them to reconsider their own nostalgic reality. For her exhibition at Kukje, Jeon will exhibit a new series of mural-sized works titled Waterlilies. Her Waterlilies capture an arcadian world inspired by Claude Monet's seminal series Water Lilies. The gentle setting is framed as a paradisical microcosm for children only to slowly betray its more sinister identity as a place for wickedness, from swimming and playing to spying and drowning. Numerous disparate stories are presented together in a complex web that has no beginning or end. The works in this new series engage the artist's on-going exploration of storytelling by a means of filling-in, reinventing, and re-sorting gaps in history.
Kyung Jeon was born in 1975 in Jersey City, New Jersey. She studied art and philosophy in Boston College and received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, NY. Jeon is the recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2009) and was the Associate Artist in Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, funded by the Joan Mitchell Foundation (2009). She has held numerous solo exhibitions including Savannah College of Art and Design, and participated in group exhibitions in museums and galleries in Asia, U.S.A., Europe and South America, including Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul. Jeon lives and works in NYC.
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