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Portrait of the Anxious and Delicate Youth

ARTIST INSIDE 2022 | Jiwon Choi

Portrait of the Anxious and Delicate Youth

Jiwon Choi, a representative of the MZ generation who has just completed her postgraduate studies, paints a portrait of youth.
To describe the portraits, they are hollow and precarious, as if they could break at the slightest touch, and hide their expressions behind a blush.
These are the characteristics of a porcelain doll. The artist draws porcelain dolls as a substitute for real youth.
In her eyes, the youth of her own age resembles a cold doll more than a green spring.
Although these dolls are ‘still life’ paintings, the theme is closer to the life of youth.

Jiwon Choi, 최지원, Undrinkable, 마실 수 없는 물, 2022, Oil on canvas, 130.3 × 193.97 cm

What inspired you to start drawing antique dolls?

The drive behind my work is the smooth surface. I do not want to show any scars or scratches, and I want to create a perfectly polished surface to evoke the hollow core, the emptiness, behind it. So when I first saw porcelain dolls, I was fascinated by their surface, and the fragile nature of porcelain, which looks solid but is easily broken, made me feel extremely nervous. I wanted to draw a doll that was gorgeous on the outside, but had an uneasy feeling inside.

Jiwon Choi, 최지원, Velvet Gesture 4, 벨벳 제스처 4, 2022, Oil on canvas, 90.9 × 72.7 cm

Even though I know it’s a painting, I have a strong urge to touch it. For a visual medium, it’s very tactile. Is there a reason why you wanted to achieve this effect?

Tactility is important in my work, and when a painting has a tactile surface, it engages the senses other than sight. It’s not just a reproduction of a likeness. If you look at the surface of the painting up close, you can see that it’s a brushstroke image, and if you look at it in person, you can see the experimentation with different textures. And yet, it’s a seductive act to make the viewer want to touch it. I want to bring them face-to-face with their inner desires.

The expressionless faces of the dolls look strangely forlorn, and it’s also striking that many of the pieces have tears in their eyes, or wear lenses, or have a particular emphasis on their eyes. Are they self-portraits of sorts?

No, it’s not a self-portrait, but it reflects the anxious feelings of a 20-something woman living in the contemporary world, which I try to resolve through my work. I would describe my anxiety as “hopelessness” and “helplessness.” I think the sense of crisis is heightened by the uncertain future. I try to manipulate the sense of anxiety inherent in my subconscious by using different devices in my work. Materials like pointed values, flames, lenses, and tears are used with that intention.

Please tell us about the key viewing points of your works to be exhibited at Kiaf PLUS.

In these works, I tried to show different situations of anxiety. As a device, I used the form of membranes that separate the inside from the outside, such as curtains and blinds. I want the viewer to focus on the tense state of the porcelain dolls in between.

Interview by Heaseung Kang, published on Kiaf 2022 Catalogue