Chae Eun Ri dreams of global fever

Chae Eun Ri dreams of global fever

Fire, crowd posing, K-pop star ‘V’, unzipped Fjällräven bag, fragments from paintings by Bruegel, Caravaggio and Van Eyck and portraits by Hitchcock the birds, a character in a dinosaur costume, recurring rainbow motifs… all go together in Chae Eun Ri’s paintings.

The exhibition containing paintings by the South Korean artist at the Musée De Fundatie in Zwolle consists of just ten paintings (one in a triptych), but the many themes and details about the often meter-sized works mean you experience them as a group retrospective. A decades-old artist – not an artist who recently (2020) completed her residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. In addition to her art education in Seoul, Chae-eun has previously studied in Chicago – Asia, Europe and the United States, which explains something of her global frame of reference.

Chae Eun Ri, The mirror in the mirror, oil on canvas, 163 x 259 cm, 2019 (Maya Meijer-Bergmans – De Doornburgh Collection)
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personal visual language

You might say decipher those stuffed, fuzzy palettes — but you can’t get enough of it. The references are so diverse that only Chae Eun would probably understand exactly what she was trying to say with them. As she keeps bringing back certain elements in her paintings (the rippling wind she associates with car dealers, Twister dresses, fire, parts of Breughel) that make you part of her world, you slowly get the idea that you’re learning to speak her language. Until you try to pronounce what exactly it is, and then it turns out that you don’t have the words for it after all. They are images, not final rules.

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Chae Eun manages to convey a clear mood through her images: her paintings are like a turbulent cosmopolitan fever dream, where images are shot at you as if you were in a crowded city. Stacked with meanings gets an extra layer song for the unseen, where the man appears to be wrapping a piece of cloth over the picture, behind him a dancer covers his picture with a second cloth. In the middle walks a blindfolded person, chased by a paper wreath. You can try to guess what this is all about, but you can also just try it.

Chae Eun Ri, song for the unseenOil on canvas, 190 x 370 cm, 2020 (Ickard Collection)
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handsome picture rhyme

Chae Eun paintings are not messy as they tightly guide your gaze with clever diagonal lines. There are clever variations of the rhyme of the image, such as the man standing in a round collar, which connects to create a smile perfectly round to the right on the canvas. Son for the Unseen II. The curved back of a man seeming to fall on a fallen boy chimes with the swollen back of a dog from a painting by Bruegel. Points like these indicate that these chaotic paintings were created with precision.

Chae-on’s images float between space, time, and cultures – and as a result the viewer can end up with a kind of hyper-awareness. In this respect, they are perfectly in place here, in the new building in the form of a cloud above the neoclassical foundation building: these paintings are like images of dreams in which reality is processed and shaken. The most beautiful thing is to sit and look at these paintings as if you were watching a blockbuster movie, an overwhelming series of images – seeing what it does to you, dreaming away and perhaps thinking of something unrelated to it but real, like the words with which in 1976 the first movie of Star Wars movies:Somewhere in space, this could all happen now. “

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