By Jeong Sung-hee (Curator of Gallery Sun Contemporary)

Jeong Ji-hyun is an artist who gazes at the inside of herself, not the outside. While some artists try to approach diverse themes and techniques, others explore deep into a subject. Jeong seems to belong to the latter, because she has developed the same theme she has pursued since her first solo show in 2003. Despite changes in subject matter and methods, her subject is not far away from the initial one.

Eggs and fish were her trademark subject matters and appeared frequently in her juvenilia. They are all fragile and vulnerable. Jeong often set them on a slanted mirror surface, on the edge of a plate, or outside the water to emphasize their unstable identity. Defining it as ‘something insecure being placed in a clumsy space’, Art critic Choi Gwang-jin relates it to her own disquieting psychological state and the oppressed self she has felt in our society as a female artist.1
Through the two exhibitions she had successively after two years, the artist has drawn flowers, thorns, furniture, and household goods that seemed to have been newly discovered in her room into her paintings. These objects appear heterogeneous, floating in the background of a vacuum where time and space are not distinctively defined. This idiosyncratic feature stands out in her expression of each subject. While the objects in the room that are in a warmhearted atmosphere reveal her gentle, delicate sensibility, a thorny cactus with feeble beads in a drawer show her acute, disquieting sensibility.2

One of the most distinctive features of her recent work is the sensation of color. Red spots, like blood-colored light, appear in her flowers, creating a look that is feeble yet eerie. Fish that frequently emerged in her early work appear again in exquisite hues. This feature is explicitly represented in the subtitle, Smearing and Permeating, from her 5th solo show to be held in Gallery Sun Contemporary. In Spring of Desert(2008)3  to premiere at this show – a cactus blooming in its center is in natural accord with the tropical fishes swimming around it. This scene looks natural but is actually unrealistic. This may exist in an imaginative space only. The round cactuses are tinged with red, and these colors blooming in the center of a desert recall spring in a warm atmosphere. In another work, Desert Flower–Permeating(2008)4, thorny, symmetrical cactus leaves that may prick if one touches them provoke a tense atmosphere. That is because art critic Lee Sun-young puts emphasis on the tactile sense in her work, rather than its representation of objects.
While the fishes mentioned above take off their own colors and then become imbued with the hues of other objects or nearby surroundings, in Bloom–Smearing(2008)5 she depicts withered white flowers with black smears soaking out from the inside. Living in this world, we are injured and from time to time have been tortured by something dark and disagreeable.
We are sometime embarrassed by another self within us. Oozing stains and withering flowers are metaphors for the insecure self contaminated by otherness. The exhibition title A Desert Garden reveals the artist’s way of evoking a feeling of unrest through the juxtaposition of two contrasting concepts. A fresh feeling brought up through the bilateral encounter between the negative concept of a desert, implying destitution, and the positive concept of a well-arranged exquisitely decorated garden.

The meaning of this exhibition will be clearer in her next show. That is because she is an artist who has incessantly attained her own evolvement through gradual change and diverse expressions, pursuing her identity. The background of her work is left empty. The artist turns down staying in a personal sphere and extends her own realm to the issues of the self and existence, denying a fixed point of time and space. It is expected that her representation of mental tension, conflicts, and worries about her identity can be efficiently carried to viewers.