Yeo-ja [woman] 1

66cm x 101cm
Mixed Media

Curator's Eye

Contrasting aesthetics and materials collide in Hyunsook Byun’s magisterial portraits of Korean women. Revitalising traditional portraiture, Byun contrasts her formal, stylised depiction of the female form with fantastical eruptions of hair that cascade off the canvas. This juxtaposition is enhanced by the glossy ceramic and resin that is used to depict the hair, adding depth and physicality.

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As a teenager, I spent more time looking in the mirror to stick a double eyelid tape to make my eyes bigger in class. I was the only one in my family who was very sensitive to visual things and the beauty. Envying my beautiful-looking friends around me, I used to belittle myself, thinking I had an un-pretty face, a flat nose and head, and a small eyes and eyelids. I was obsessed with beauty, and it was a great comfort for me, such a visually sensitive girl, to draw something beautiful. The Yeo-ja[woman] series is a process of insight into my desire toward beauty and vanity inspired by portraits of traditional Korean beauty. In ancient Joseon, ‘Gache’ was used as an added embellishment on the hairs of women that signified the predilection of beauty. The value of it was far exceeding than the exchange of all of one’s wealth. Pursuing beauty beyond all consequences, mankind’s endless desire may look different throughout ages, but the underlying premise is the same. I reflect my desire to the hair, the Gache, expressing it more colorful and exaggerated, and the hair part takes me to a more imaginary world.

Medium: Oil on canvas

Country of Origin: United States