Jung Yong-Sung with works featured in his first solo exhibition in Indonesia. (JG Photo/Richard Horstman)

An Island Connection in Bali For South Korea Artist Jung Yong-Sung

JANUARY 23, 2015

South Korean contemporary artist Jung Yong-Sung first visited Bali in 2005. The dramatic landscape, traditional culture and the onslaught of modernity were three decisive factors that, to him, melded Bali and the island of his birth, Jeju, inseparably together.

The kindness and creativity of the Balinese people had a strong impact upon him and since his first visit he has been compelled to return to Bali.

Located 60 kilometers off the south of the Korean peninsula, the people of Jeju have developed a language and culture distinct from their peers on the Korean mainland.

Bali and Jeju share strong cultural elements -- namely traditional, agrarian roots, belief in the supernatural influencing everyday life, and various rites and ceremonies.

"My paintings resemble Jeju Island, its history, culture, environment and people," says Jung .

His works, black ink on white paper, feature solitary, anonymous figures, some dramatized as defiant "heroes," living testament to the dexterity of the human condition and the harsh, often absurd predicaments that must be braved.

Other figures are portrayed in states of despair.

"Alone," Jung 's first solo exhibition of paintings in Indonesia, opened on Jan. 13 at the Tony Raka Art Gallery in Ubud and continues until Feb. 13.

"The faces of people who endure hard lives inspire me," Jung says, "because this is a reflection of my past."

Influenced by his homeland's history, Jeju Island's dark and horrid past has been and intimate part of his work since graduating from college and joining the Tamara Art Group in Jeju.

Born in 1968, Jung studied at the Graduate School of Art Education and the Department of Art Education, Jeju National University.

"In university, I painted using a traditional Korean ink and brush technique, however in 2007 my method evolved and I began using knives and saw blades to scratch the surface of the paper," he says.

"The surface texture is similar to that of the raw volcanic stone on Jeju."

Jung believes these textures are similar to his experiences are a metaphor for life.

"Growing up in Jeju's harsh natural elements mould tough human characters," he adds.

"I dedicate this exhibition to my mother, who aged 83 lives happily alone, and is strong and active.

"My father died 40 years ago, yet my mother worked each day and raised four children.

"This has inspired me to grow as well as appreciate those who live a hard life," Jung adds.

His works reveal patterned scoring of the paper achieved by measured strokes of a saw blade across the paper.

His technique involves painting the surface, scratching it, and then finally, the application of black ink.

His standout works include last year's "Looking at the Sky," with the subject's sturdy angular features gazing up and pondering the cosmos reminiscent of Easter Island's famous stone statues.

Similarly, last year's "Like a Boxer" features a broad and confident figure with raised fists ready for combat.

"Shouting," however, is Jung's most confronting and strongest work on display.

The expression ventures beyond despair in to a violent outpouring of emotion. Hair extends out vertically, eyes forced fully open like having received a jolt of electricity.

Jung intentionally depicts an oversized mouth cast open wide to compound the emotional tension.

"When I am in Bali, I always experience powerful emotions and something of a blooming within me," he says.

"Some Balinese artists have a unique power and are much freer than I am.

"My relationship with Bali has allowed me to grow as an artist. When I return home I can find more emotion and freedom to express my art."

The exhibition "Alone" by Jung Yong-Sung runs through Fen. 13.

"Alone" is featured at the Tony Raka Art Gallery, on Jalan Raya Mas No. 86, Ubud, Bali. For more information, call 0361 7816785, or check out tonyrakaartgallery.com.

Bali art