brilliant 30: Chiyung Chung
Photorealistic Painting Fading Memory of Lost Heroes
Chiyung Chung, A New Photorealism
Chiyung Chung uses photographs as the primary visual referents for his paintings. Chung’s technique is distinguished from what we generally understand as 'photorealism.' After reproducing the photographic images in near-microscopic detail, Chung lays a soft, half-tone gradation on top of the painted image. The artist defines this new photorealistic technique as ‘painterly photorealism.’
Chung collects images of society and politics from the mass media, and focuses on highlighting their painterly qualities in his photorealistic paintings. He implements these attributes of oil painting in shades of pink and turquoise in order to reproduce color spectrums that cannot be perceived by the camera lens. Chung’s pink series - <Gaze> and <Salad Days> to name two examples – replicate media images taken from ‘Heroes of the Era-Apollo’ and ‘Rock Music,’ which show groups of people in a state of feverish excitement.
Images like this reveal hopes for a better world which have since been lost; with the passing of time, the marvels of science and the inspiration of heroic leaders become like sediments in our memories, remaining only as traces of the past. The artist takes advantage of the curiosity which attaches itself to the vague narratives of his images. Rather than viewing the work of art from a distance, the viewer is compelled to take a step closer in an effort to see through the haze of half-tones.
Chung’s photorealistic paintings do not articulate a paradoxical relationship between photography and painting; rather, his work reconciles and integrates these two fields. Chung’s photorealistic paintings testify the artist’s search for the singular meaning of 'authentic realism.'
Q. Why did you choose photorealism as your style?
At a young age, I began learning realistic painting rather than the abstractwhich was more mainstream; this ultimately led my interest to emulate photographic images. Photorealism has been critical style of my work since then.
After the development of photography, painterly realism lost its influence. In an effort to find reconciliation with photography and in order for the two mediums to co-exist, photorealism was introduced as a technique. But painting and photography have two main differences. First, they differ in terms of medium: oil pigment is used for painting and the camera is used for photography. I find the process of painting an image more appealing than capturing it instantly with a camera. - Chiyung Chung -
Q. Could you elaborate on the relationship between painting and photography?
Painting and photography appear to have little in common, but they share the nature of “realism.” Before the advent of photography, realism was prevalent in art for many periods indepicting living forms. After the development of photography, painterly realism lost its influence. In an effort to find reconciliation with photography and in order for the two mediums to co-exist, photorealism was introduced as a technique. But painting and photography have two main differences. First, they differ in terms of medium: oil pigment is used for painting and the camera is used for photography. I find the process of painting an image more appealing than capturing it instantly with a camera. Secondly, each medium has a distinct aura. While the camera relies on more objective representation, a painted image is comparatively subjective in nature. Each work created by an individual artist will exude a distinctive subjective aura.
Q. Most of your work seems to depict events from American history. How do you go about choosing the visual imagery which becomes subject matter of your work?
I spent most of my adolescence in the United States. The transition from living in a mono-ethnic society to a melting pot of cultures was not easy. During college, I was primarily influenced by realistic landscapes and portraits of the Western and European arts. Upon returning to Korea, I practiced with Korean subjects, aesthetics and painting techniques. The imagery for my work is selected from magazines and footage. <Gaze> captures a crowd of hopeful people watching the launch ceremony of Apollo. <Salad Days> depicts a young group of people reveling in hardcore rock music. <Happy Painting> shows a beauty pageant from the perspective of the media. In this series, I wanted to speak of lost heroes as they are depicted in the mass media. The spacecraft symbolizes capitalism and human ambition, science and hope for mankind; rock stars, beauty pageant winners and inventors - the heroes of our times as seen and received through the eyes of the media. But the heroes of the past remain only in memory. I wish to engage viewers in a dialog about our hopes for the contemporary generation.
Q. Unlike most photorealistic paintings, your work is distinguishable by soft pink and aquamarine half-tone overlays. Why did you choose these half-tones?
Perhaps this method is an outlet to express my capricious nature. One day I got sick of my rigid, opinionated character. I was so focused on the meticulous, accurate reproduction of visual imagery that there seemed to be no room for soul and spontaneity in my work. At the same time, I didn’t want to give up photorealism. In a sense, these pastel half-tones are a compromise between my pursuit of photorealism and a new search for depth in my painting.
Q. What is the seed of your imagination?
I believe an artwork projects the perspectives gained from one’s life. Visual imagery is the language which the artist can communicate with the viewer and society at large.
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Gaze 2_On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Oil on canvas_133x237cm_2012
Gaze 3_On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Oil on canvas_133x237cm_2013
Happy Painting 2
Happy Painting 2_Oil on canvas_84x149cm_2012
Oil on canvas_84x149cm_2012
Oil on canvas_75cm in diameter_2008
Chiyung Chung majored in painting at Maryland Institute College of Art. He acquired his CT and M.F.A. in painting at Yale University. Currently, Chung is a professor in the Fine Arts Department at Dankook University. His interest in photorealism is derived mainly from painterly aesthetics. Chung’s interpretation of his generation’s search for true happiness is manifested in his work. In his most recent work, the <Sublime> series, Chung narrates the sublimity of the Korean landscape through a distinct use of color.
Chiyung Chung has participated in solo exhibits entitled <Quite Riot> at Lespace71 in 2014, <Pretty in Pink> at Kwanhoon Gallery in 2013 and <Oh My Abandoned Son!> at Spacenoon in 2008. Chung has also exhibited in various group shows; <Resonance of the Spirit> at Hanbyeokwon Museum in 2013, <The Spirit of Form> at the Korean Culture Center in 2008, and <Over the Rainbow> at Hong Kong Visual Art Center in 2009.