Sumarria Lunn Gallery, London, 10th May-4th June 2011
Your first visit to this gallery takes you down a long tiled stairway in a sort of genteel Mayfair equivalent of a back alley, all of which arouses strong apprehensions that the whole “invitation to a private view” thing might in fact be an elaborate ruse to lure you into a high class sex dungeon where you’ll be enslaved and chained to the wall as a permanent bum puppet for closeted Tory MPs; the kind of place I’m sure many of Mayfair’s posho art dealers have a more than passing acquaintance with. But no, put your gimp suit and ball gag away Sebastian, because Sumarria Lunn Gallery really is quite a nice little place.
In some ways it’s good that Jeong’s exhibition of paintings takes up virtually every bit of the already rather limited wall space, but on the other hand a large proportion of the work is so mutually similar that it may have been better to omit some rather than give the impression of cluttered, bonsai version of the “art” [sic] section at Ikea. I’ve seen numerous curatorial justifications that were much more egregious and irrelevant than the one provided for Jeong, but it still takes nearly an entire side of A4 with densely set, 10 point, single spaced, unjustified text to say that Jeong is a painter, she works a bit with technology and that “axonometric” means a drawing has an orthographic representation of three dimensions but without perspective. The fact that the beauty and artistry of Jeong’s paintings speaks for itself, as good art tends to do, makes it even less necessary to dump the usual load of curator’s tosh on us. A plain English paragraph each about respectively who she is, what she does and how she does it would (as in most cases) be quite adequate.
The works themselves are almost scarily meticulous repetitions of tiny polygonal forms in muted palettes, arranged in flowing swirls and swathes of pattern, suggesting most strongly to me so-called Outsider Art, the obsessive filling of blank spaces with a myriad of miniscule words or images that is so common as to be almost a cliché of mental illness. However, unlike a mental patient (or other “more is more” artists I could mention, some of whom are also entirely eligible to be detained under the Mental Health Act) Jeong knows exactly when to stop, when to leave a space, when to vary, when enough is enough. In short, she’s an artist, she’s bothered to learn her craft. I’m reminded of Salvador Dalí’s half quip/half serious clarification that “the difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad.” Not that I’m implying any other similarities to Dalí, either in terms of Jeong’s work, her intentions, her technique or her being a total mentalist, but she seems to be accessing some kind of insane/beautiful part of her brain when she’s making this work.
A few of the images on show are on multiple layers of a translucent, slightly iridescent silk-like material to which no reproduction or photo could ever do justice. These are lovely enough to even send me to the price list. I’m an artist, which ironically means that I could never afford to casually drop a few grand on a painting, but it’s nice that the price list is right there with all the other paper ephemera that you always find on an art gallery’s front desk. No posh coyness about selling art here, no “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Others are listed as being on silk, which brings a sensual, tactile quality that’s lacking in the works on canvas, even though there’s not much wrong with the works on canvas either.
I hope she sells some of these, even if it’s not to me. You heard me. These are beautiful paintings.