Review: On the surface of Images – Jinkyun Ahn

Confrontation 1 Jinkyun Ahn from ‘On the surface of Images’ (2012)


06 Oct. – 18 Nov. 2012

Jinkhun Ahn’s parents are the objects of his latest photographic work On the surface of images, but the subject is very much one of mortality. We must face our own, it seems, but not too closely, just yet.

On entering the gallery space we are first confronted with a large photographic print of a South Korean couple, sitting together on the floor of their city apartment gazing into the middle distance and out of the frame of the image. We follow their gaze only to find them looking back at themselves, the full photograph reflected in an equally large mirror. The photograph is clearly staged and the characters are posed; a clinical air pervades the room. On the back wall of the gallery space we see two similar images; same scale, same apartment, and the same characters, but this time each embody their own frame. Each figure is caught mid-step, emerging from darkness, into a foregrounding light.

This is a thoughtful and well hung exhibition in a difficult space. Ahn proffers us insights: constructions of South Korean parents; constructions of living; and constructed frontages, metaphorical and literal. We are invited to contemplate these characters, the photographer and also ourselves, in a mix of detached relationships with each other and in the mirror. The work is quiet and subtle, attention to detail and precision extends from each photograph to their execution on the gallery walls.

The work delivers a poignant punch and the impregnable surfaces of the prints transcend the personal in doing so. In each image, each diptych, triptych and across the exhibition, the constructed realities face each other and themselves.

I too face myself and even in the shadow of sumptuous photography, I cannot escape my own mortality. But I too will keep it at arm’s length, for now.

Gazing Jinkyun Ahn from ‘On the surface of Images’ (2012)

[This review was written as part of an Art and Critical Writing course at Phoenix Brighton with the wonderful Wendy Ann Greenhalgh – for further courses (which I would highly recommend), please see the website.]



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