Egene Koo








a critical essay for solo exhibition 2012
 구이진 /  20120523 
<Ode to Strawberry Fields>
by Ho Kyung Chung (art theorist/historian)

* This article is abstracted from <Ode to Strawberry Fields>, a critical essay for the exhibition.

A current trend in contemporary art is the desire to represent the past in the present. Art theorist, Craig Owens has defined this trend with the conceptual term “allegorical impulse.” The archetypal materials used in the past are brought to the allegorical structure of this present time. The past and the present come together in the process of structuring a story. An artist may reinterpret the story in his/her own view and the new story may represent other stories and overlap with them.
Although the allegorical images are barely considered as invented or newly created, they could be termed “adopted.” Thus, artists who apply this allegory to their work could not only refer the common rule in the culture but also take on a role as an interpreter who can translate the hidden cultural meanings. Moreover, images do not normally indicate direct meanings but can be read as symbolic codes. This is why details of an image - regarded as pictographs - trigger a complicated labyrinth of semiotic meanings, and they desire to sort out the puzzle.      

In the works of Egene Koo, there are some vehicles leading people to old stories that the artist read in her childhood. Interestingly, when the artist deliberates on her life and her works of art, the stories buried deeply in her unconsciousness emerged to the surface. Her works are allegorical. She began her works with the recalled scenes from stories. In doing this, the past moment has been altered into an art form; as archetype, the old story was rewritten to represent a psychological narrative of the artist on her canvas. Due to the motivation of her works based on the archetypal stories, her works help the past and the present meet and enable the artist and viewers to communicate on canvas.  
Since human history began, the archetypes - original motives - have been re-utilized in the context of each era as a legend or as a religious phrase that reflects true relationship between humankind and its contemporary stage. The artist’s works came from the memory of her own childhood. But they also remind viewers to think of their childhood, for the archetype the artist brought through the old stories is common to everyone.

Profoundly appreciating her works, we recognize that the spaces of her works might be neither the physical space of reality nor the fictional room the artist created in her own fantasy. When we infer the place from the titles of works and the artist’s statements, we realize that the space of her works would be constructed from well known stories. Those stories and the artist’s interpretations combine to create places that might symbolize new psychological stages in her works.                          

Thus, the artist has shown, through those psychological symbols in her canvases, a narrative of our common life. And in this dramatic moment, she provides the opportunity to consider a process of establishing an identity from the communication between the past and the present. In this context, we would not only attempt to interpret the common stories that have connected with the artist’s life, but also confront the psychological experience of the enclosed childhood in our own memory.

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