The theme of this show started from looking back on not being able to perform the everyday activities that we have been taking for granted. As Kwon said, "I found solace in open spaces and from looking up to the open sky, away from the empty forest of buildings. I wanted to create a series of work that allows one to relate to, similar to how we tell stories from looking up to the clouds and stars in the sky," the paintings shown in the show were created between the lockdown period between March and October with this theme in mind.
Social distancing became one of the most commonly used terms during this pandemic. Edward T. Hall first used the term in his book ‘The Hidden Dimension’ to describe human behavior in different distance settings. Drawing from Martin Heidegger's description of how animals use varying spatial distancing strategy from one another, Hall defined four levels of spatial distancing found in human behavior: intimate distance (0 - 18 in.), personal distance (1.5 - 4 ft.), social distance (4 - 12 ft.), and public distance (12 - 25 ft.). Hall’s concept deals with the human perception of space and distances from the conscious and subconscious level and offers two implications in explaining the idea for this show as it deals with the space of painting.
The first idea is about the fluid relationship between the painting and the viewer. Hall's conception of spatial distances are not a fixed idea, but a dynamic relationship that fluidly shifts from one level to another. Similarly, the space of painting is not limited to the flat surface of the canvas but can be expanded into the space between the painting and the viewer. By stepping out of the single point perspective view of the canvas, the experience of viewing the works becomes an active engagement by moving around the space.
The second idea is about the reconsideration of the traditional way of viewing work from one object to another at a social/public distance. One aspect Kwon focuses on in her work is to create a spatial experience through the paintings by activating the visual and kinesthetic senses. In order to achieve this, the tactile experience through the brushstrokes of the oil paint and the color depth that takes place at the intimate/personal distance is important. She proposes a holistic sensory experience that could be felt at various distances.
It wasn’t until the pandemic that how we distance ourselves from others became a topic of interest. The way we go about our daily lives and routines were questioned, and something that we could not even see affected our physicality to the point that measures restricting our movements were imposed. This show will also offer a different perspective on the idea of occupying space and how we distance ourselves, focusing on the relationship of our bodies to the artworks. The displayed works of different positions, sizes, and colors are meant to be devices that activate a virtual space for the viewer to navigate.
Jaena Kwon (b. 1986, South Korea) earned her MFA in Painting and Printmaking at Yale University School of Art. Her work incorporates the elements of painting to go beyond the possibility of expanding the pictorial space of the flat surface. In her practice, folding and sanding is a way of expanding the surface and support structure of painting. Working with wood, light density fiberboard, gesso, acrylic, and pigments, she creates shaped work that achieves a fluid and haptic texture that heighten the logic of dimensions and psychological affect. Her work has been exhibited in numerous venues such as The Painting Center, NY; Amy Simon Fine Art, CT; Song Eun Art Space, Seoul; ING Art Project, Seoul and many more.