TRAVELER, Empathy Journey

In "JAMSAN: the traveler of dimension,” the title of being the first-generation conceptual artist in Korea for Seo Taiji's album <Sogyeokdong> and the drama <It's Okay to Not Be Okay> can be temporarily forgotten. Jamsan's unique fictional universe, connecting a girl character and the Red Chair in an 'ironic puzzle' like 'rose-cactus-blue house,' presents an evolved sense of 'Surreal Fantasy,' known as dépaysement. This exhibition stems from the ‘Sleeping Mountain (Jamsan)’and it navigates between literary narrative and painterly expression, linking to "K-painting inspired by Western classics."

 

The recent paintings by the artist showcase a heightened skill level of maturity, combining 'intense symbolism and profound realism,' radiating a compelling energy in even the small size of work. Choosing encounters with unfamiliar elements while leaving a 'captivating message' through well-defined character settings is a directing style of Jam San. In Jamsan’s perspective, The Little Prince written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's(1900~1944) is never kind. Jamsan delves into the real truth pursued by surrealism by transforming the aesthetics of relationship-building (Inside) that someone has been tamed by into an outside perspective.


For those who resonate with the Jamsan’s sensibility, now it is time to focus on the story of a rose which transformed and embodied the figure of a girl. Jamsan, who skillfully combines popularity and artistry in a surreal fantasy known as 'Recovery Painting,' unfolds the emptiness within a desire-filled reality with an 'ironic charm.' For the Rose, a girl traveling among the stars, the Little Prince is no longer a source of pain. Thanks to empathy that transmutes the separation into the understanding, pain swiftly evolves into growth.


In his autobiographical essay, <The Rose From the Stars>, the brilliantly shining star disappears, and the thorn-like pain has a message of recovery in his artwork. The moment when the girl and the gaze meet awakens the dormant emotions with a 'beautiful fantasy,' guiding us beyond the desire (Red Chair: Desire of desire) towards a liberating freedom.

 

 

Empty Empathy, “Surreal Fantasy”

Crisis awakens art. The period when Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote "The Little Prince" is connected to the era of World War II, marked by the prevalence of surrealist works. Saint-Exupéry was the French novelist and aviator who was a dreamer in the highly commercialized America during World War II, and he presented an autobiographical essay that seemed like a dream. His experience of crash-landing miraculously in the Sahara Desert during a flight in 1935 is reflected in his work. Similarly, Jamsan is an artist who has tasted the extremes of commercialism. Commerce entices the masses, but purity delves into commercialism. The crisis we find ourselves in, akin to a pseudo-hibernation post-COVID, has opened another virtual world that combines 'popularity and artistry.' The flourishing art market, the creation of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and the desires that led an unreal-like reality at that time reached its peak within the 'Remade World' of sanctions.


In a way, Jamsan's Girl Series might be considered as an advancement of the reality imagined by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in the last century—a 'Post-surrealism' that has progressed beyond. Jamsan's works, synthesizing the fantasies of the subconscious and dreams, serve as candid mediators inducing the full revelation of both the era's and individuals' traumas. The artist employs intricate lines rarely found in commercial art to express a fantasy world where sincere emotions are visualized. Insisting on oil painting, the artist transcends today's realities, seeking to introspect their pure self when confronted with the harshness of reality. By placing characters that defy convention—'Desire (Red Chair)' and innocence (Rose Girl)—within a single frame, the artist unveils the submerged realms of the subconscious, akin to an iceberg. In an attempt to diversify the binary system of light and darkness, the artist explores an expansion through various symbols. This involves portraying the enlargement of the self as a profoundly beautiful romantic element while simultaneously creating an 'ironic formalism transcending extremes' by the way of repeatedly exposing the pain.


The expression on the girl sitting on the Red Chair is somber, and the setting of embracing a cactus while laying down a beautiful rose unveils intense suffering. As the artist is confronting the minor sensitivities, he presents what could be termed as 'Recovery Painting,' offering images that comfort the self. The incorporation of a new sensibility blurs the boundaries between popular culture and pure art conversation, driven by a rejection of the cruelty inherent in the 'elitization or academicism' of art. For the artist, painting is about escaping the intended self-loathing, seeking a communicative language that is playful. It is about transforming personal preferences into universality, exploring the most Jamsan-esque perspective that can be intertwined with painting through understandable storytelling.

 

The Line of Korean Painting, encounters in Jamsan's Drawings

 

To the artist, the line serves as a conduit that resonates with emptiness. The emotionally conveyed 'contemporary realm drawings' undergo a transformation through Jamsan's individualization process, evolving from simple characters. While the artist previously expressed unfiltered emotions of darkness and rawness, recent mastery over materials enables an exploration of simultaneously embodying the energy of masterpieces and the sophistication of urban life. Having encountered Korean painting during school years, the artist contemplates how to translate Eastern motifs (form) and dreamlike fantasy (content) into a universally understandable message.


If the artist's red represents flamboyance, the eyes without highlighting and expressionless a girl signify the potential for all of us to read emotions. By juxtaposing lines that are challenging to express within the dense nature of oil painting, the artist brings forth the 'language of differences' hidden between materials. This connects to the paradox of various 'emotional clusters' confronting each other through the universalized girl.


The girl, Rose, embarks on an inevitable journey from the disappearing Apple Star, while the cactus personifying pain mockingly reveals a lonely emptiness. The color contrast method acquired from 25 years of graphic work efficiently conveys Jamsan's worldview within the juxtaposition of multi colors and monochromes, negative spaces, and the expansion of subjects, much like the symbolism of the rose and the cactus.


The artist asserts that the night is more honest than the day. The girl is providing comfort to everyone and serves as a standard to awaken various emotions, candidly revealing the unseen darkness. Slavoj Žižek(1949~), a living intellectual, argued in his book "Looking Awry" that the gaze is a trace of abstract pleasure, ‘impulsion,’ and that finding true happiness is possible through healing wounds by self-gazing. In today's reality, where the pains of the era and individuals are often overlooked, Jamsan's fairy-tale-like drawings can be seen as aligning our perspective towards 'intense awareness of reality' for all of us.

 

Jam San, <The Rose From the Stars>

 

Stars fade away.

 

Once special, once shining,

Stars vanish, erased, drifting far away.

 

They told me I was different,

Precious, with a special meaning.

 

Every star in the night sky disappears,

So does all uniqueness.

 

Fading pain turns red,

Erasing pain becomes petals,

Drifting pain transforms into thorns.

 

The star from which my rose was born,

Seductive like a red apple,

Now, like an inescapable swamp,

It flows down, shaking my roots like the vanished stars.

 

The fading pain of disappearing stars turns into

A cactus with green thorns, entering into my embrace.

 

Together, we become travelers,

To precious places, unknown realms,

To the past, the present, and another somewhere.

Embarking on a journey among the stars.

 

No more uniqueness exists

At the vanishing end of disappearing stars.

 

We lock eyes with each other.

 

 

By Ahn Hyun-Jeong (Art Critic, Doctor of Art Philosophy)


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