The Gathering, Bystanders
11.11 - 12.16.2021 / Gallery BK

한재열은 작가 생활의 출발점으로 2010년 대지진이 휩쓸고 간 아이티에서의 파병 생활을 꼽곤 한다. 한재열의 그림은 재난의 자리에서 시작된 셈이다. 자연재해와 인재 중에서도 지진은 유별난 재해다. 지진은 사람의 목숨을 앗아갈 뿐 아니라 우리가 몸을 기대고 있는 바닥, 존재의 거처를 가르고 무너뜨리는 재난이기 때문이다. 살아남은 이들은 무너진 바탕과 다름없는 대지에 다시 집을 지어야 한다. 무너진 바탕에서 시작된 그림은 무엇을 재현할 수 있을까? 아이티 파병에서 돌아온 후 아일랜드로 떠난 한재열은 매일 거리에 나가 길을 지나는 사람들을 크로키 했다고 한다. 이후 한재열은 십여 년간 『Passersby』 연작을 이어나간다. 네 번의 개인전을 통해 발표될 『Passersby』 연작의 캔버스는 얼핏 보아 재난으로 부서진 형상을 직설적으로 표현하는 것 같다. 그곳에는 한 사람을 알아볼 수 있는 외양의 차이, 즉 눈, 코, 입이나 사회적 기호, 즉 인종, 성별이나 계급을 추측할 수 있는 기호를 제거한 얼굴 아닌 얼굴이 있다. 이 형상은 질료적 원상태를 끊임없이 환기하는 색채 덩어리, 얼굴의 자리, 자국에 가까워 보인다. 하지만 바꾸어 말하자면 인간과 비인간을 가로지르는 이 초상 아닌 초상‘들’은 십여 년 동안 한재열의 캔버스에서 사라지는 대신 계속 계열을 만들며 ‘출현’한 셈이다. 출현한 침묵, 가령 굳게 다문 입이 일종의 외침을 재현하듯, 사라짐의 출현은 사라지지 않고 남아있는 존재를 우리에게 각인시킨다. 한재열의 후속 작업이 『Bystanders』 로 명명한 군상 시리즈인 것은 우연이 아닐 것이다.

인간성이란 무엇인가라는 질문을 던진 인류의 재난이었던 2차 세계대전의 폐허에서 인간과 정치의 본질이 무엇인지 끊임없이 질문했던 한나 아렌트(Hannah Arendt)는 정치적 차원을 사유하기 위해서는 먼저 복수의 인간들을 사유해야 한다고 주장했었다. 단수의 인간이 인간 일반, 인간의 총체성을 떠올리게 하는 용어라면 다수성으로서의 인간들이라는 용어는 조정 가능성(modulable)을 내포하고 있기 때문이다. 다른 한편 문서고에서 역사 속 이름 없는 이들에 대한 기록물을 살펴온 역사학자 아를레트 파르주(Arlette Farge)는 육체적 양상을 기술한 문서를 역사 기록에 적극적으로 반영해야 한다고 주장한다. 인간이 아닌 인간들, 영혼의 존재가 아닌 육체의 존재들을 통해 정치와 역사의 차원을 복기할 수 있다는 생각을 괴테의 <색채론>에 대한 애정을 표현해 온 한재열의 작업, 초상들의 얼굴(『Passersby』), 얼굴들의 초상(『Bystanders』)에 적용해볼 수 있지 않을까? 가시성의 세계를 조각내는 동시에 뒤섞으면서 한재열의 색채-터치는 일종의 모듈처럼 작동한다. 기계적이고 자동적인 반복을 위한 모듈이 아니라 확정된 이름과 윤곽의 바깥에서 이질성과 복잡성의 감각적인 지대를 조율하는 색채-이미지의 모듈.

특히 역사적 재난과 주변인의 기록 이미지를 조각조각 참조하고 변형, 재배열한 연작에 이르면 이질성의 감각적 세계에 깃든 정치성과 역사성이 매섭게 관람객을 응시한다. 의 검은 그림자가 그렇다. 군중의 형상을 받치고 있는 검은 그림자는 우리에게 먼저 캔버스 속 인물들이 겪고 있는 재난, 겪게 될 재난을 상상하도록 할 것이다. 다음 순간 우리는 우리의 얼굴을 캔버스 속 인물의 얼굴 아닌 얼굴에 포갠다. 우리 앞에서 인물의 재난을 환기하던 검은 그림자는 순간 우리 내면의 그림자가 되고 우리는 인물의 재난을 인류의 재난으로 경험한다. 우리 앞에 모습을 드러냈던 얼굴은 우리의 얼굴이 되었다가 마침내 우리를 바라보는 우리 내면의 얼굴이 된다. 한재열의 캔버스에서 이미지의 전율이 출현하는 순간은 바로 이 순간이다.

이나라 이미지문화연구자, 동의대 영화·트랜스미디어 연구소 전임연구원




The Gathering, Bystanders 
11.11 - 16.12.2021 / Gallery BK



When asked about the starting point of his artist career, Jaeyeol Han refers to his service in Haiti as a part of the military response following the 2010 earthquake. To put it short, his art began at the site of a disaster. Of the numerous natural and man-made disasters, earthquake is peculiar in that not only does it cost human lives, it also splits and pulverizes the ground we stand on, the very shelter of our existences. It turns the earth into a collapsed background, upon which the survivors must build new houses. When a painting practice initiates from such a collapsed background, what exactly could it represent? After being discharged from his military service in Haiti, Han emigrated to Ireland, went out to its streets every day, and sketched the faces of the passersby. The ensuing Passersby series became a part of his practice for more than ten years. At first glance, the series, having been presented at four separate solo exhibitions (including this occasion), seem to be the unfiltered representations of figures torn apart by a disaster. His faces are robbed of features that make a person unique and distinguishable, such as eyes, nose, mouth, and social signs that imply the person’s race, sex, or social class. Blobs of colors constantly reminding viewers of their material origin. It would be possible to call the images “faces without faces,” the site where a face used to be, or the traces of a face. However, these “portraits without portraits” — both human and non-human at the same time — instead of disappearing from Han’s canvases, have kept appearing in his works, constantly creating series in the meanwhile. Just as how one could represent a shout via an image of silence — for instance, that of a closed mouth — the disappearance appearing here imprints viewers with beings that remain and do not disappear. It was no coincidence that his next series, Bystanders, would feature groups of people.

World War II was such a disaster for mankind that it put forth the question of what humanity is. Among its ashes, Hannah Arendt constantly probed into what the true nature of humans and politics are. To contemplate the realm of politics, she declared that one must first consider the men because the men are what involves modulability; meanwhile, the man is a word that recalls human in general or its overall characteristics. On the other hand, Arlette Farge, a historian who dives into numerous archives to study records made on nameless persons, has asserted that history must actively utilize the documentations made on bodily circumstances. Men without men, or the idea that the realms of politics and history could be revisited via bodily existences instead of the psychological — apply this idea to Han’s oeuvre, the faces in portraits (the Passersby series) and the portraits in faces (theBystanders series) strongly influenced by his love for Goethe’s Theory of Colors. As Han tears the visible world apart and shuffles the pieces simultaneously, his color-marks behave as modules, but not like the ones made for mechanic, automated repetitions. Instead, his ones are color-image modules that regulate the sensory region of disparateness and complexness beyond the boundaries of defined names and contours.

In particular, when we arrive at the Gathering series where Han takes sources from the image archives of disasters and modifies and rearranges the pieces, the politicalness and historicalness ingrained in the sensual realm of disparateness menacingly glare at the viewers. The black shadows in The Gathering, a Man with a Bottle, and The Gathering, Bystanders are such instances. First, the black shadows in Han’s images, serving as the pedestal to the groups of men, urge us to imagine the disasters the characters are suffering (or will be suffering). And in the next moment, we come to merge our faces with the “faces without faces” in his paintings. The black shadows that reminded us of calamities suddenly become shadows within our psyche, and we experience the character’s disaster as mankind’s disaster. The faces summoned in front of us turn into our faces, and at last, become the face within our psyche that stares us back. And in this exact moment, the thrill of the image conjures itself on Han’s canvases. 

Nara Lee, Image Culture Critic and Senior Researcher at Cinema & Transmedia Institute, Dong-Eui University


Translated by Jaehee Han (https://steppingstones.info/)


Face


This face is an icon. It is an icon of no race, no sex, no age, no religion, no nationality. A symbol of an innumerable, familiar body that has erased all possible social features, nevertheless just passing by us. The icon of images that rise and disappear every day, and an anthropological collection that borrows the classical attitude of portraits back from the past and records the traces of living humans looking at living humans.

As part of the media experiment of painterly painting, I have been using the primitive expression impulsively, which integrate constant collisions of formative elements, and contain them in subjects and stimulates tactile sense.

My experience of 2010 in Haiti as a bystander hovering around the disaster sparked interest in the image of the drowned and saved. Disaster has always been an experience of time, not a moment, but a lasting one. The attention naturally spread to everyday life and shifted places. One of the most important things in a story is the person who listens to it and has the power to deliver it when listening carefully. The experience detected by staring around at the place where I stay has drive to my artistic development.

Ultimately, experiments based on visual language is questioning what remains in the image of surviving through an exploratory process towards the essence of the image.

 얼굴은 상징이다. 인종 없음, 성별 없음, 연령 없음, 종교 없음, 국적 없음의 상징이다. 가능한 모든 사회적 특징을 지워버린, 그런데도 우리를 앞을 그저 스쳐 지나가는 무수하고 익숙한 신체의 상징이다. 매일 떠오르고 사라지는 이미지의 상징이며, 초상화의 고전적 태도를 과거로부터 다시 빌려와 살아있는 인간이 살아있는 인간을 바라보고 흔적을 기록한 인류학적 수집물이다. 이를 위해, 나는 회화적 회화의 매체적 실험의 일환으로 조형적 요소의 끊임없는 충돌을 집약해서 피사체에 가두고 촉각을 자극하는 원초적 표현을 충동적으로 사용해왔다.

재난의 주변을 맴도는 자로서의 2010년의 아이티에서의 나의 경험이 가라앉은 자와 구조된 자의 이미지에 관한 관심을 촉발했다. 재난은 언제나 시간에 대한 경험이고 순간이 아니라 지속하는 것이었다. 관심은 자연스럽게 일상으로 장소를 옮겼다. 어떠한 이야기에서 중요한 것 중의 하나는 그 이야기를 듣는 사람이고 이야기를 주의 깊게 들을 때 전달할 힘을 갖게 된다. 어딘가에 머물며, 주변을 응시하면서 획득하는 경험이 나의 미술적 발전을 이끌어 왔다. 궁극적으로, 이미지의 본질을 향한 탐구 과정을 통해 상실의 이미지에 잔존하는 것이 무엇인지 시각언어로 뱉는 실험들은 질문한다.



Statement

Like an anthropologist who must have specimens of contemporary humans, I drew and collected faces; and this is how my face series began. I discreetly glanced at the passersby, quickly sketched their faces and created paintings based on the drawings back at the studio, and repeated this cycle. Back then, I did not and could not know, but with hindsight, I realize that I had struggled to gaze at the face instead of the mask. Call them pedestrians or passersby, you can see hundreds of them in just a day if you commit to the task. Instead, I began to doubt if what I was seeing were real (true) faces, questioned what exactly the face and the presence are, and wondered why I could not remember a single face from the hundreds I saw unless I had paid particular attention to it. These questions led me to focus on a particular insufficiency. At the same time, I read the face of the passerby as an image with highly concentrated contents, and I wanted to translate those condensed elements into painting – the medium I'm most proficient in.

In the subjects, I gazed at, in me who was being gazed by my subjects, and in the distance separating me and the subjects – in all of them I found an insufficiency or inadequacy. This sense of lacking seemed to outstretch my sense of sight and the way I view an image. In turn, I parted ways with my previous practice of portraiture, and for my next project, I paired my creative process with the aforementioned questions and ideas. For instance, while watching Shoah (1985) I would come across a photo where people lined up for the concentration camp or the gas chamber had become immortalized as they gazed at the camera, or a miniature plaster reproduction kept at a museum. Such images become the subjects of my painting. But I do not compose such an image in a representative manner. Rather, I imagine how it would look in an exhibition space, how it would interact with other paintings to compose a montage-like narrative; in other words, I want the paintings from my new project to serve curatorial purposes as well as painterly ones.

Back in 2010, I served seven months at post-earthquake Haiti as a dispatched soldier, and the experience drastically shifted my viewpoint. This was what initiated my Passersby series. Whereas, the current series I'm working on was ignited by the 2016-17 South Korean protests, a series of rallies demanding the impeachment of President. The gatherings lasted for months, joined by many hundreds of thousands of protesters. Yet, instead of focusing on the inherent political aspects, I was fascinated by the existence of the masses itself – or the image of the masses. I once thought, were the paintings in my series to demand anything, it would be either body or life. The sensation I felt at the protest linked to this line of thought. Thus in the coming future, I plan to draw and paint images of the masses, in which the main characters will be the numerous faces I have gathered over the years through my Passersby project. The effort here is to question what the image is: the image's nature, its visuality, phenomenon, and presence.



2020 Statement.



[De] Gesichter ohne Namen

<Passersby, Difference and Repetition> / Öl auf Leinwand, 259.1×193.9cm, 2015




<Passersby, Unmask> / Öl auf Leinwand, 90.9×72.7cm, 2016

Der Fotograf Suntag Noh sieht das Gesicht als standardisierendes Kriterium, eine Person als Individuum zu identifizieren: „… der einzige Körperteil, der als Äquivalent zum Namen einer Person gesehen werden kann, ist das Gesicht.“ Das Gesicht ist nicht nur die Vergegenwärtigung der einzigartigen Identität einer Person, sondern auch ein untrüglicher Beweis dafür, dass diese Person existiert hat. Auch wenn die Personen, die in einer Ausstellung fotografisch dargestellt sind, gänzlich unbekannt sind, genügt die Existenz einer porträtierenden Fotografie als Beweis, dass diese Personen zu einer gegebenen Zeit gelebt haben. Das menschliche Gesicht ist das einzige Studienobjekt des Künstlers Jaeyeol Han. Doch anstatt realistische Ebenbilder zu erzeugen, bildet er Personen in namenloser Anonymität ab. Jaeyeol malt Gesichter, deren Namen getilgt wurden.

〈Passersby, Outrageous〉 / Oil Stick auf Leinen, 25×35cm, 2013

Jaeyeol beobachtet Gruppen von Menschen und skizziert die charakteristischen Besonderheiten interessanter Gesichter innerhalb weniger Minuten. Diese Skizzen dienen später als Basis für die Werke, die in seinem Studio entstehen. Ohne das Wissen, dass sie beobachtet werden, geben einige Passanten für einen Augenblick tiefe Einsicht in ihre Gefühle und Stimmungen. Genau diese gefühlsmäßigen Momentaufnahmen werden zu unverwechselbaren Gesichtsausdrücken, die wiederum später als Leitmotiv in Jaeyeols Werk wiederbelebt werden. Jaeyeol beschreibt es so: „Ich eröffne die Möglichkeit, den Gesichtern Leben einzuhauchen, die allzu leicht übergangen oder ignoriert werden können. Ich versuche eine neue Perspektive in unserem modernen Zeitalter zu schaffen, in dem sich Menschen oft passiv begegnen – über Telefon oder Facebook –, anstatt sich in der realen Welt zu treffen, von Angesicht zu Angesicht.

2010, als Jaeyeol seine Reihe “Passersby” in Irland begann, arbeitete er mit Leinwänden in A4-Größe (8,27 x 11,69 inches). Einerseits konnte er so mehr Werke fertigstellen,andererseits waren die porträtierten Gesichter fast in Lebensgröße, was den Eindruck einer „Personengruppe“ entstehen ließ, wenn die Werke gemeinsamausgestellt wurden. Später wurden seine Bilder größer als zwei Meter. Jaeyeol arbeitet mit Oil Sticks, die als Verlängerung der Bewegung von Schulter zu Arm und letztendlich zur Leinwand fungieren. Je größer die Leinwand, desto dynamischer sind die Körperbewegungen des Künstlers. Der Fokus liegt hierbei auf der Erforschung der fundamentalen, der Malerei innewohnenden Möglichkeiten. Zu diesem Zweck malt Jaeyeol die Gesichter in der Reihenfolge Knochen, Muskeln, Körperfett und Haut, um so die somatischeStruktur seiner Vorlage ausdrücken zu können.


〈Passersby, In silence〉/ Öl auf Leinwand, 190×130cm, 2013

Er sieht seine Arbeit als “beides, Malerei und Bildhauerei zur gleichen Zeit“. Das Impasto ist charakteristisch für seinen Stil. Das daraus resultierende Gefühl von Tiefe in Kombination mit hellen, ausdrucksstarken Grundfarben erzeugt Authentizität. Die charakteristischen Merkmale seiner Vorlage, die sie umgebende Atmosphäre und der Lichteinfall dienen als Ausgangspunkt für die Werke. Jaeyeols Farbauswahl ist eine Symbiose aus einer Anlehnung an Goethes Farbtheorie und seinem eigenen Instinkt. Er sieht die Reihe „Passersby“ als Prolog einer Geschichte, die ihn sein ganzes Leben begleiten wird. Jede Person, die er in einem seiner Werke eingefangen hat, spielt eine ganz bestimmte Rolle innerhalb dieser Geschichte. Welche Rolle ein bestimmtes Porträt hierbei spielt, bleibt dem Betrachter selbst überlassen. Ob Fahndungsfoto, Fotografie oder gemaltes Porträt, wir sind ständig mit einer überwältigenden Anzahl an Gesichtern konfrontiert, denen wir jedoch kaum Beachtung schenken oder uns gar weigern, uns an sie zu erinnern. Jaeyeols Arbeit gibt uns die Möglichkeit, die Rolle des menschlichen Gesichts in unserer modernen Gesellschaft zu überdenken, etwas das trotz seiner unentbehrlichen Wichtigkeit oft in die Sphäre der Peripherie verbannt wird.