I sometimes encounter a landscape in what is not a landscape. It is like not having been able to say hello to a something already thrown into the world, and then one day just meeting it by pure chance. It is the shape that suddenly rises from a blurred daze, the haze of memory. - 2001, from the artist’s notes
Looking at the artists and artworks of contemporary art, there is a common trait of subject matter that they conventionally relate with. The certain feature is more conspicuous in the regularly held international art events, the number of which is on the surge these days. However, there exist special exceptions that convey just how misguided it is to try to standardize such nature. The works of Jongheon Bae are examples of such.
Bae’s work cannot be comprehended around a certain form or subject matter. He semantically weaves together the various situations that one experiences within the conditions of the everyday life, and proposes the experience of contemplating the various contexts embedded in them. The common and even trite fragments of the everyday function as significant subject matter in his work.
Bae’s work is what has been gathered from not a concealed but adequately veiled corner and then transformed into a new context, while sometimes it is also the documentation of the long process of that very act of gathering. As such, the fact that his work is free from any formal trait means that he has a liberating command of a spirited imagination, having broken free from the restraints of form.
The issues of the world addressed by Bae’s seemingly delightful works are in fact of grave gravity. They touch the specific subjects such as the schizophrenic phenomena brought on by industrialization and capitalism, the two still powerfully operating systems in the everyday of many people, and also step upon abstract objects such as ancient Greek philosophy, which denies the deterministic structure of life and perceives the flowing process of life as the essence.
To focus only on conceptual analysis when Bae’s work alludes to significant contemporary contexts and to thus miss the semi dubious humor embedded in his art is not a good means of reading his work. If the various structures functioning in the time and space of the everyday serve the fundamental purpose of capturing the body, his work is a flexible slide responding to such tension.
Wonseok Koh (Art Critic)