Water/Cup Experiment
— the Filled, Spilled or Beyond

— Jaemin Hwang

Spilled Water

12 - 21 October 2018
Rainbow Cube Gallery, Seoul

When images in painting had to be somehow dismissed in the past, it ultimately became the matter of overcoming ‘painting’ itself; starting from deploying a method of abstracting its visually perceptible subject-matters, painting ended up denying its own format of pigments on canvas mounted on a frame, which was then needed to be hung on the wall. This linear narrative from a picture of illusion to a ‘pure’ form of art seemed to be concluded as the triumph of (abstract) painting over images.

Abstraction is, however, now being incorporated into the swirling pool of image that circulates in a highly multi-layered way. This is not pertinent to a certain conjuncture of art history claiming that painting as a pure form is no longer available but to the current media condition where almost every visual sign, regardless of its mediums, reverts to an empty signifier, to the state of a zero. We are consequently facing a new round of the unpredictable match between image and painting. Yet, unprecedent penalty has been imposed at this time on painting. As even tangible materials dissolve into a two-dimensional mode in the new dynamics of image-reductionism, painting encounters a need to re-identify itself as ‘not-an-image-thing’, or at least ‘not-completely-an-image-thing.’

Jiyoung Yoo considers painting as an accumulation of conventions that have been articulated towards a certain direction. In the process of deconstructing the notion of the ‘painterly’ and reconfiguring such, she extracts elements that make an artistic object as painting and exaggerates them to the extent that their previously somewhat quiet or invisible presence becomes more evident. It is thus preliminary for her practice to examine premises that have been validating the genre of painting.

In her solo exhibition “Spilled Water,” the fiber of painting chosen for diagnosis is image. In order to inspect the role of it, Yoo conducts an experiment with the method of abolishing and emptying out images from her paintings. Onto the idea of technical supports as nothingness, selected exemplary visual frames—stickers and plates—are superimposed so as to act as the detached representation and hence pretend to be a blank. As they are not equivalent to any ‘meaning’, these ‘images’ whose layers of understanding have been complicated by the arbitrary logic of the works manage to avoid from being integrated as part of image-reductive world.

Unlike the expectation from the title, what could be seen in the exhibition is not an already happened situation of spilled water but rather a simulation of the physical phenomenon happening towards the state of spilled water. Imagine there is a cup before you: What if the bottom of the cup has been suddenly removed? What if the cup with a hole on the bottom is lifted up? What if it is not water that is filling up the cup? What if ‘something’ that we have doubtlessly considered as water requires a different name? In the same vein, the reconstructed paintings of Yoo demands a sort of thought experiments that entails the process of switching and substituting disparate conditions – how the supports appear in the show and how they are juxtaposed with one another? In what status the images acquire after being withdrawn from the paintings and how they evaporate? What traces are left on the supports from the dropped-out images? And what else should be questioned? Oscillating between the template of ‘frustration’ and that of ‘hope,’ the exhibition “Spilled Water”, the first of the kind, seeks a not-yet-occupied field in the present topography of the medium.