Along with his most recent works such as Green Hill and Loot which all use green piles of toys for material, Park of Acquaintances, which is from early this year, will be on display at Gyung-Su An’s exhibition at Brain Factory. This new series from An including Green Mountain features an object that resembles something covered with green leaves, and which true form is undeterminable. Upon seeing this, the camouflaged bird from one of surrealist Max Ernst’s frottage illustrations, The Couple’s Diamond featured in Histoire Naturelle, comes to mind. Going over the once almost ignored piece, it also looks like a pile of soldiers fighting or already those who have finished and met their deaths. However, upon closer examination of the green mounds that support the twisted, dead soldiers, it can be seen that they are not real, but toy soldiers. In Park of Acquaintance, small toy soldiers fight gallantly in comparison to the calm, giant horse in the center. The swings and slides and other playground equipment are familiar sights, but the way they are displayed is in violation of physical and logical laws, and therefore strange. The latest Park of Acquaintance is a transitional piece and while it connects closely to his last series, space for thought is given on how it develops into a new piece altogether.
Ever since An’s first exhibition Looking into the Mirror in 2001, he has dealt with themes that relate to not only toys but child’s play. This new piece features a bigger toy soldier army with various poses and formations. This is said to have come from the artist’s personal experiences as a child. An who grew up on the outskirts of Busan, spent most of his time playing with toys, rather than with other children. The toy soldiers were useful tools for him, as they enabled him to easily make up stories alone with the many characteristic toy soldiers. An still plays with his toy soldiers. He says they are an allegory to the emotions of life he has captured, and also what we personally think and feel. An purposely plays out dramatic scenes, and makes stories from what would be coincidental results from random movements. The results from his actions are photographed and later moved onto the canvas.
Toys are tools children play with, smaller versions of the adult world, and they hide dark values well. The amusement that a toy rifle brings conceals the violence, brutality, and connections of the real adult world. The commercialization of sex that Barbie has brought with her large breasts, small waist and well-proportioned body is also easily hidden with her playfulness. An has taken away all that can be related to the sentimental and happy pastimes of childhood, and concentrated only on the toys by enlarging them and showing them in detail. With this technique, the hidden meanings and symbols surface. Confusion would be the first reaction to the alien images hidden in child’s play. The broken pieces from Loot are actually parts from a yet to be assembled toy soldier, but they bring to mind a past history filled with looting pieces of dead soldiers for war spoils. Place of Acquaintance is much more aggressive than the cut-up body from Loot with its hideous forms, displaying parts wrongly put together and forced to be connected. Child’s play that was supposed to be fun now shows the violent side of our society.
An’s work through sentimental toys that represent childhood pastimes shows our society’s hidden violent reality. It triggers curiosity, but brings on feelings of visual and conscious discomfort at the same time. However, because of this uncomfortable sight we are able to look back on life’s other side. The violence that can be seen where people die and conquerors take parts of the slaughtered bodies is not limited to battlefields. The direct force from guns and knives seems unrelated to us now, but the tense atmosphere violence brings hides here and there. Invisible tyranny from social and economic forces may be in stronger and more violent action because of anonymity. Because of this, the sorrow, loss, futility that we experience may be sufferings that people in our society are exposed to. By looking at this scene that may be depicting a simple scene with toys, you are forced to think of the other side of society and therefore filled with a sense of sorrow from living life as one in it.
Choisie / Mongin Art Center Curator