Intoroduction of solo show: The Moment Your Smile Fades Away

by Yeji Jang

June 2019

Chaeeun Rhee loads an array of images onto a huge screen, with an intention to reorganize, juxtapose and subvert them. Images the artist captures and places on the screen are those that are accessible in our everyday lives or those that we had once come across on the news, art history books, films or other media.

In her most recent solo exhibition 《Hidden Plot》(2019) held in Gallery Meme, Rhee turns the exhibition space into a dark room, with exhibited works being partially illuminated with kinetic lightings. In today’s world with abundant images, we are constantly exposed to images, yet we also tend to easily misinterpret them. By conducting an experiment of sort that intentionally made visible (or invisible) the allegory of images by hiding a part of the screen, it was possible to perceive different dynamics surrounding the environment of images including images serving as different facets of our society, the way we perceive them, and how they are processed again.

The underlying ‘doubt’ cast by the artist on images prevails her overall works. Twister series(2017) is a triptyque filled with screens of images paying homage to films or masterpieces that we are familiar with or making a parody out of visual allegories that are commonly used in pop culture. That is, when looking at images all mixed up in terms of so many twisted people, events, hierarchies and order, it is difficult to fathom the original context these images once had, that is which images dealt with the actual events or which images are just for an one-off consumption.

Title of Rhee’s recent works Spiegel Im Spiegel (2019) was inspired by “Spiegel Im Spiegel” of a short stories collection by Michael Ende. The latter’s surrealistic short stories seem to be independent, unrelated to one another, but depending on the reader, these fragmented segments can be linked to one another, being contextualized. When focused on an object (image) through a mirror in a mirror, we have doubts whether the image in the mirror accurately reflects the form of the said object. Also, in Rhee’s work Spiegel Im Speigel, each and very image is independent and can be connected through so many combinations. Likewise, the icon of Doubting Thomas allows to incorporate the attitude of endlessly doubting the images. The halo, generally bestowed upon sacred figures in religious paintings, was given to St. Thomas to shed light on Thomas as a figure harboring doubts. The images deviating from the original context shed existing allegories to wear new allegories inside a new screen.

Rhee’s recent works explicitly represent the images that portray the ideologies of modern society. The urban landscapes commonly seen in cities or incidents and accidents often heard on the news, or images that may be subject to one-off consumption on SNS…all these images form a single configuration. When standing for the first time in front of a big screen filled with diverse and vibrant figures and stories, some may begin to wear a thin smile on their face. However, the more we dismantle the colorful, diverse events and images within the screen implemented by the artist, and the more we peel off the overlapped layers one by one, we come face-to-face with a feeling of underlying distrust and anxiety. It is comparable to a sense of uneasiness provoked by looking at fake images projected onto a mirror in a mirror…a feeling originating from the images that we perceive and the gap between their referents and the fact that we cannot fully trust the things that we do actually perceive.