Bae Joonsung was born in Gwangju, South Korea in 1967 and trained at the College of Fine Arts, Seoul National University, graduating as ‘Master of Fine Art’ in 2000. He has shown extensively in Korea and Europe, having an impressive curriculum vitae of solo and group exhibitions. The Pontone Gallery is exhibiting his new ‘lenticular’ paintings, which are shown exclusively, and for the first time, in London.
His is a sophisticated and complex process of image making. The artist’s subjects are carefully painted, then these paintings are photographed and combined into a ‘lenticular’ print, which allows another image to be revealed as the viewer changes their angle of vision. Important to this process is the ‘layering’ of imagery, that is, an idea of a painting within a painting; alternative versions of a painting can exist within the same surface.
These new works feature figures in interiors, sporting scenes and still-lives. Some are paintings with a lenticular insert, others are entirely lenticular panels. What is common to all is the alternative readings allowed by the process. They are skilfully executed in a technique which brings to mind nineteenth century, western ‘romantic’ painting, eliciting overt references to Millais, Alma- Tadema and Ingres. Their rich and seductive surfaces are the jumping-off point for ideas about flux, change, decay and transformation.
We have expectations about paintings and Joonsung’s technique allows these to be confounded. What appears to be a Sargent ‘swagger portrait’ of an Edwardian society lady becomes a contemporary Korean nude. A sumptuous study of flowers withers and dies in front of us. The sports match reaches a climax. Using the tenets of academic painting and then manipulating them digitally, the artist subverts the viewing process and demands our attention.
Bae Joongsung’s paintings slip between worlds. He presents a synthesis of past and present, of reality and artifice, of naked and clothed. The images express the fragmentary and elusive nature of our perceptions. This makes us all the more determined to savour them.