What kind of energy exists within human society?
I have always been attracted to questions about human identity. What is the concept of nationality? Why must each person belong to one place or another? How does history and the spirit of each age relate with one's personal life? These questions are still constantly in the background of my art-making.
I see human life and civilization as belonging to the natural world. Things come from nothing and disappear back into nothing. There is only energy existing, because everything is changing, each moment like an Infinite Evolution.
How do I see and think?
Cognitive systems control the way we see and interact with the world and with each other. These systems may be shared across the frameworks of contemporary culture and across regions. But perhaps my cognitive world lies in contradiction to the culture surrounding me? I would like to stand outside from the ways of thinking imposed on me by culture, so I may objectively explore my world and my roots. Then I could be a free man who travels infinitely through time, released from systems of thinking.
In his series, “The Forest of History,” Artist Myung Gyun You welcomes the viewer into a world of natural exploration, and, in doing so, he shares his perspective on life, on human existence. In his artist’s statement, Gyun talks about his frequent contemplation with energy in human society, with concepts of nationality and belonging, and with history’s role in all of this. These ideas fascinate and yet baffle him. “Why must each person belong to one place or another?” he writes. He attempts to tackle such unanswerable questions through his art.
In a recent interview, Gyun talked passionately about his love of hiking and simply being in nature. When he started to lose his way as an artist after living as a businessman in Japan for ten years, Gyun found long-lost inspiration lurking in the natural world, where he would spend hours upon hours sketching and simply being. It is on these frequent hikes that Gyun contemplates the ever-present labels slapped on to individual human beings as though they define these human beings. In nature, Gyun escapes this notion: “I don’t have a nationality in nature. I am only a creature.” In creating his art, Gyun tries to isolate his thought process from the many influences derived from popular culture regarding race, religion, and politics— distinguishing categories of belonging and topics that fill and influence our everyday thought. In doing this, Gyun “may objectively explore [his] world and [his] roots.”
Accordingly, there are many different types of energies represented in this show. The opening piece, a blue painting filled with movement and splatter, embodies a volcanic eruption. The paint almost jumps off the page as Gyun renders such a dynamic occurrence in nature. Much of Gyun’s artwork serves as an imitation of his various encounters with nature. Interestingly enough, Gyun thinks of this volcanic representation as an illusion rather than a direct imitation. Unlike his drawings of still moments, these more active ones are fleeting. What Gyun records on paper is a moment that has already passed, a fleeting memory. This aligns with his perspective on life that everything “come[s] from nothing and disappear[s] back into nothing. There is only energy existing, because everything is changing, each moment like an Infinite Evolution.” Further in the show, Gyun captures his more still subjects, such as tree roots and bark. Yet still the same logic applies, be it a slower transition than the more active subjects. Sticking to this theme of energy, Gyun’s later works—each relief pieces— portray the respective energies of a pregnant womb and the roots of a fallen tree.
So, dear viewer, enjoy the various energies present in this gallery, uniquely free from external pomp, opinion, and influence. Take a break from the daily hustle and bustle of life as we know it to peruse this “Forest of History,” suspended in time and isolated from outer delineation. Take some time and just be.
Molly Ledbetter ‘17
Gallery Exhibition Research Assistant
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