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Sohn Jinah’s artworks, which are made in depth with intensity span of large-scale workload from sculpture to paintings, at first glance it seems like it is lacking of contents compared to its outward gorgeousness and beauty. It is because dense surface seems like it is resisting to penetrate from the depth, and empty chairs and space shown frequently in her works represent absence and silence. However, it is quite paradoxical to learn that her works attempt a lot of storytelling through the dense surface, absence and silence. Form of art is for its contents and not for its own sake. Combination of symbolic components which artist has created is a tool and device for description and it addresses the realities of human beings by process of artists’ concentrated work. In case of paintings, they use a variety size of canvas because painters attempt to depict different stories by their size aside from visual or formal attraction.

For example, exhibited work piece ‘Long Silence’ is 210cm wide and 30cm long, which is extremely horizontal. Both edges of chairs in the picture are cut off, as if it is longing to extend beyond the canvas. Patterns such as circles, ovals, squares fill the space of the canvas and black circle is drawn like as it’s got nothing to say. The wide canvas connotes the continuously flowing time. 

On the other hand, installation work ‘Situation Created’ depicts a chair which becomes gradually larger in between abstract patterns- it is 15cm wide and 180cm long, which has the just opposite form of ‘Long Silence’. As horizontal-shaped works may represent dimension of time, so may vertical-shaped works illustrate dimension of space. While two pieces use similar composition, their striking contrast tells typically how Sohn Jinah addresses different stories through variation of structures (vertical/horizontal=space/time). Acrylic surface of the canvas looks thin with plain coloring but is actually made of more than 10 layers including the varnishing. Properties of time in the works are reflected in description as well as in its form. Installed work ‘Confession’ is the representative work in this exhibition that tells the story in the form of structure. This work with 6 meter high tower, which took process of welding, cutting and setting up shows the layout like a drama stage rather than being a monumental sculpture. Combination of description and self-confessing elements by using structure is applicable both to paintings and installation works.
In installation work ‘Confession’, designs of back of chairs as shown in the paintings are attached closely with various colors between each of iron posts, and in its front, foam-shaped indefinite structures appear which are made of different-sized, welded circles with colors of silver, black and gold.

In its surrounding, one set of normal and cut-off chairs is laid. Form of towers conveys strong symbolism as proved in the cultural history. Symbolic signs cover up the tower. Cut-off or whole chair represents the ego or symbolizes the subject. Reset chairs illustrate the ego in the phase of division and disintegration. Foam-shaped indefinite structures, coiled in the center of work, represent firm but elusive real existence. Though it is made with definite sizes and colors, they are unable to have definite coordinates and featured by the dramatic effects like light and shadow emitted between the holes. Like the reality we face or as shown by the history of human beings,
the audience is likely to be absorbed in its overall effects rather than to perceive it as a form from outward world. In this work, the Real, Imaginary and Symbolic orders interact and constitute one subject.

 Since many of her works contain these three concepts in addition to this installation work, I would like to analyze her works based on interactions of three orders of the Real, Imaginary and Symbolic as per theory of the 20th century’s French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. The psychoanalyst asserted different three orders of the Real, Imaginary and Symbolic interact and constitute a subject. In his commentary book ‘Jacques Lacan’, Madan Sarup said each three orders of Lacan are associated with Freud: The Real with the id, the Imaginary with the ego and the Symbolic with the superego. Three orders converge in the realm of subject. Instead of having a substance, subject is made by interactions of three orders, while discontinuity exists inward. Empty or reset chairs in her works are related with absence, division and disintegration of the subject. As an accessory used to reflect the ego or symbolize the subject, chairs form the axis of the work and address her feelings and surroundings. Chairs may remind strongly the physical existence of the sitter to symbolize social status. Madan Sarup points out that difference between the way we see ourselves and the way we are seen by others is very difference between Imaginary identity and Symbolic identity.

 The Symbolic order, as a rule governing the social structure, has the same rule of language with self-reliant structure. By accepting language, the subject allows its free instinctive energy to work and be organized. Sohn Jinah expresses various phenomena of the subject by means of chairs. So chairs, which exert various ways of expression like language, tell the truth of the Imaginary order that the subject is constituted by language. It is said that in the modern linguistics, the subject does not tell and is made by language. Language exists before the subject and does not embrace the conventional subject as told in the sphere of humanism. In this context, empty chairs in her work may express the situations of the subject which cannot be expressed by language. She applies free but strict figurative language to depict the history of the subject incorporated in the Symbolic order.  
In his commentary book about Lacan ‘Subversion des Begehrens’, Peter Widmer said human body does not consist of language and strives to symbolize it, while language divides, isolates blocking complete satisfaction. That is, there occurs a gap between humans as the subject and language as the object.

Lacan reverses Descartes theory about consciousness under the proposition of ‘I think, therefore I am.” And he created famous countering proposition saying “I think where I am not, therefore I am where I don’t think.” The work’s subtitle ‘I’m not there’ transposes chairs to symbol of absence and desire from symbol of existence and thinking like Lacan’s countering proposition. On one side,
chairs describe various situations and phases of the subject, on the other side they address exposition to empty space of the subject. Various patterns, which form background of empty chairs situated on the center of the work, are signs not related to specific theme and black circles in particular as shown in her many artworks showcase the gap of language, as a symptom or signal of silence wishing to say what cannot be said. Her expression, though not clearly communicated, reveals the identity and position of the subject. To Lacan, the subject is shrouded in the mystery of structure in which signs designate themselves. When unable to be expressed by language, the subjects fall into traps of meaning and face isolation. For this reason, many of her work pieces tend to be trapped in the cell of beautiful language. At the same time, attempts to break away from the locked traps are conducted in many spots. Although talking or writing is the almighty means of the subject, it is fundamentally lacking in that it cannot achieve completion forever. Endless repetition of this act may be to compensate such basic lack. Gorgeous patterns and components of the Symbolic order.

The typical sign is phallus. According to Peter Widmer, phallus is metaphor, not physical organ,
a sign without meaning to Lacan. In this sense, empty tower covered with patterns in her masterpiece ‘Confession’ which is installed on the ground floor, associates with movements of signs in pursuit of desires of which cannot be satisfied forever. Outstanding tower may be associated with male’s physical part at first glance but phallus as a sign does not belong to male or female. Also chairs in her works don’t show specific gender either.

Chair in her works belongs to her, which is an antique in the 18th century from France and a model started to be shown mainly in her works since 2002. According to her, it conveys neutral image. While its lines and patterns are of feminine tastes, the seating space is very large. It is known as the office chair used by a middle-aged man originally. Mixtures of lines and curves tell its neutrality.

Her other work ‘Situation Created’ depicts ideal symbolic subject. Multi-layered semicircles divide space like electric bulbs and three chairs are arranged in harmony. ‘Symbolic Relationship’ is composed of five panels in total and has several dividable layers. Forming differentiated systems, they look free but are in order and even black circles, which look like black hole of silence, are arranged in neat manners of horizontal and vertical composition. ‘Situation Created’, made up of smaller panels, expresses various appearances of the symbolic subject. Laid with 18 sets of canvass with the size of 70cmX70cm in the form of crossover of rectangles and circles, the work shows diverse variations with same size chairs placed in the center playing a pivotal role.
Its composition, which converges to the center in circular canvasses and has architectural division by black color in square canvas, on the other hand, adds stability of work. Symbolic subject becomes subject not only for fixed location, also for movements. ‘Symbolic Relationship’, which is exhibited in window gallery, is made by attaching chairs of various sizes to three sets of metal panels, in which central chairs face the front in contrast to drift of both wings. Cubic delineation on the plain and wave-shaped ground emphasizes dynamics. ‘Confession’ or ‘One Person’ depicts stable appearance of the symbolic subject by laying out signs symmetrically on the square frames.
‘One Person’ with five sets of horizontally attached panels expresses the various positions and appearances of the subject by lying chairs on different heights. ‘Confession’ also expresses various positions of the subject. As an installed work which puts chairs with a wide variety of colors, heights, directions on the stainless pillars, it excites viewers with its unstable composition. It is symbolically to warn people the danger and vanity of human ambition to reach the highest social ladder. ‘Blow Me Off’, a large-sized work with four sets of panels 180cm wide and 150cm long disintegrates surface stability and maximizes the instability of signs. This work tends to address the disintegration and division to the most among her works. Chairs are decorated with dazzling optical patterns, and ovals which cover up variously-laid chairs show the dynamics of chain of meaning as liberated signs from the background. Lacan’s theory which adapted the accomplishments of modern linguistics to psychoanalysis raises questions about the symmetric stability between signs and meanings. A sign designates only other signs. According to explanation of Madan Sarup, meanings are dissolved into more signs when meanings are within grasp eventually. Signs are integrated by chains of meaning. Lacan asserts that two different areas of signs and meaning can’t be joined together and meanings are to undergo continuous slip. This is to emphasize truth as told exists in the space between signs or in the holes of chain. When signs join, there is structure of difference and meaning is formed. ‘Blow Me Off’, which is full of signs connected to chain of meaning has appearance of jouissance(jubilance) as freed from the object and meaning. At this point, the subject of storytelling faces the unconsciousness that attempts hard to express the prohibited.

Her relief work ‘Confession’ shows the Imaginary order before entering the Symbolic order of language by way of the mirror image. This work, made of stainless steel, has the form of two-dimensional mirror reflecting distorted images by dented mirror surface. It attracts the audience in the viewpoint of schizophrenia with installment of small bulbs and cubes. Dented mirror with attached chair shows the distorted image clearly. Mirror provokes schizophrenia in addition to expressing diverse appearances of ego. Bronze work ‘Confession’ which is installed at the central part of the second floor has the characteristics of the mirror stage even without presence of mirrors but with chairs of different sizes which look like being branched forth from the large chair below. Another work showing the characteristics of mirror stage is the reset chairs cut off from ‘Confession’, installed on the ground floor. Its association with mutilated body is very expression of schizophrenia of the ego. Lacan views the mirror stage as a model of ego function itself.
The mirror stage is the period when an infant imagines itself as integrated and controllable entity for the first time despite its inability to control physical activities wholly. In the mirror stage which is needed to become the ego, body provides false vision as a fragment. Reflected image of mirror captures the subject to the trap of illusion of wholeness. Mirror establishes imaginary form of ego.
Humans pursue imaginary totality and coherence throughout the lifetime. In her works, distorted images of mirror reveal false identification of the ego. The ego, which is attracted with its coherent image, shows the original form of the imaginary relation. The Imaginary order includes a number of primary illusions before language stage such as infants, psychos, mental patients. In Lacan’s model, the ideal ego, which is formation of narcissism based on the mirror stage, belongs to the Imaginary order. If chairs are associated with the Symbolic and mirrors are with the Imaginary order in her works, circles appearing with wide variations are related with the Real order, which seeks to penetrate the Symbolic order. It fills the groundwork of her sculptures, installed arts and paintings to complete perfection of her artistic works. Nevertheless, it does not constitute concrete image or language, unlike the Imaginary and Symbolic orders. It exists as properties of materials or basic material and interacts with other orders. Black circles in particular, which express black hole or empty holes visually and connotes silence in terms of language; reveal the appearance of the Real order. In Lacan’s model, the Real is something other than imagination or symbolization. It is perceived as something alienated and is defined as a thing impossible. It exists in the place where logic does not reach and is elusive and difficult to regulate. Madan Sarup explains that Lacan’s concept of the Real order returns to the id of Freud – It is related with surprise, being embarrassed and unexpected. The Real order nears to things beyond description or impossible. This is to remind humans that their Symbolic and Imaginary orders are established in the world beyond them. Black circles appearing rather embarrassingly in many of her works are employed as a strategy of silence attempting to express Real things that are impossible to be expressed. Sohn Jinah’s works stretch the domain of three orders to depict the inward and outward world of humans - ambiguity and primary energy of the Real, deceit and illusion of imagination, language and alienation of symbolization. While constituting elements are closely combined, it tells that there are intrinsically endless desires and uncertainty at the core of human beings. By Lee Sun-young/art critic

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