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Sejin Kwon

Installation view of “Perpetual”. Courtesy of GALLERY2

Sejin Kwon’s latest solo exhibition title <Perpetual> alludes to both the perpetual calendars–the subject of his work–and to his long-explored idea of “recurrent hours and the mundane.” A significant portion of Kwon’s previous works were based on photographic reference, namely landscapes he photographed himself. The photoreference method was a means to capture the extraordinary from the ordinary, a glimmer of his individual remembrance and spirit. However, the artist wanted to paint something less idiosyncratic and more ecumenical in its imagery, as he felt such works would help more people connect to his ideas. And that is what he has done, minimizing and even tempering and curtailing the image to kindle the affective and mnemonic glimmer to a more evident glow.

Installation view of “Perpetual”. Courtesy of GALLERY2

The particular perpetual calendar design was encountered by chance in an acquaintance’s vehicle. The metallic desk calendar had dials to adjust time–the month and weekday–and the very idea of “manipulating” time intrigued the artist. The exotic scenes atop the on the calendar also drew his attention. Perpetual calendars come in all shapes and sizes, but the one that caught Kwon’s attention was the metal vintage type with month-week adjustable dials at the bottom with a flippable circular landmark panel with the date. The calendar design was a popular travel souvenir in the West, from the 60s to the 80s. Contemporarily, the month and date represented the present today, but presently it is a reminder of what has or may have happened in the past on that date. Clearly an object open to interpretation, but the artist was joyous for his discovery of a subject he felt a strong desire to paint. It had been a long time.

Today 2, acrylic, graphite, and glue on paper, 150x210cm, 2023

Sejin Kwon’s painted a total of seven perpetual calendars, yet he does not own any such calendar. All paintings were completed by referencing photos online, such as those dealing in used, second-hand goods. The accumulation of time and image with dents and scratches in the calendars were clear enough to transfer from object to photo, and now into painting. To the artist who had previously painted landscapes referencing photos he took himself, painting objects from photos taken by others was a new turn. Photos from older found posts were taken with lower quality cameras, or smartphones. The quality and artifacts present in photos also became embedded alongside the implied spaces and lighting, background and color grading of each photo. The past is present in two layers in these paintings. First is the past marked by the object and second is the past captured in the photo; all photos are of the past. Seeking out such photos and making his selection resembled what the artist imagined to be an archaeological dig, hidden on the other side of time.

Today 12, acrylic, graphite, and glue on paper, 150x210cm, 2023

The <Perpetual calendar> series is a break from the artist’s known and familiar memories. They do not reference anything private as his previous works have. The calendar summoned the memories of an unspecified universal past. Even for those who do not personally identify with the object, the dioramic landmarks and dates and days are recognizable enough to jog up an imaginary nostalgia of the individual who first purchased the object as a souvenir–a reminder to a certain place and time by a person long time ago. In the process of his work, the artist’s gaze became fixed on the calendar’s date readout, and a thought grew on him: Could similar memories and emotions be evoked and sparked just from the date readout without showing the whole of the perpetual calendar? Each person has a date more meaningful than others. Some dates are particularly more meaningful. Some come with great anticipation, while others have a looming inescapable dread to them. We all have dates linked to personal memories.

Today 24, acrylic, graphite, and glue on paper, 150x210cm, 2023

And so the artist began his <Today> series of paintings. He drew the numbers on paper. That is to say, he painted a numeric landscape. The close-up of the small date readout effectively became a window into a number-scape on the other side; the rest of the perpetual calendar is completely omitted. Everything about the number readout is very much present, from the offset position and inking of the number to the shadow cast by the frame of the readout frame, and even the hues implying a certain lighting. He said that the composition of numbers, lighting and shadows, all within the square space felt like form. These simple numbers and delicately painted shadows and hues became clues to a two-fold question the artist had been long pondering ‘Is it possible to evoke memories and feelings in others without tangible form? If so, then how?”

Installation view of “Perpetual”. Courtesy of GALLERY2

Accustomed to painting his objects in detail, the largely empty space populated only by a number was a strange new experience. Kwon’s brushstrokes and colors follow the object with great fidelity when describing in detail. The brush is laden with reproduction. Yet the Today series of works are completed with only the most uniform strokes and use of color. Freed from the burden of nuanced colors and realistic reproduction, he even felt a sense of newfound emancipation. The Today series of works are based on an actual object, but the flat and curt symbol system has given the paintings both figurative and abstract quality.

The 2-meter panels populated with color and a number make for a meditative ambiance. Perhaps it is the interplay of light and shadow creating an intriguing color dynamic. Perhaps it is simply the overwhelming oversize of a symbol on screen. Perhaps all of the above. The artist hopes that the date-numbers serve as space-time corridors. The date will spirit some away to a certain year, month, date, and time in the past. Others, the future. For Sejin Kwon, colors were the doorway to memories and feelings. With a date to get to and the color to open a path, who needs enough road to get up to 88?

204 Pyeongchang-gil Jongno-gu Seoul 03004 Korea
82 2 3448 2112