Art and People
On the generative possibilities of art within and beyond introspection: Anders Krisár and Jin Meyerson on their duo show TWO-FOLD
May 19, 2023
In the history of art and its criticism, there is a conversation that has been circulating since the very beginnings of our understanding of human creativity, which explores its deep correlation between the concepts of catharsis and regeneration. Stemming from individual history, and thriving in its creation from the personal, the intimate, and the unknown, art can be a powerful medium for the investigation of the self, moving from within, yet often expanding beyond each singularity, reaching out to a broader dimension.
TWO-FOLD, a large-scale itinerant duo show of Korean-American artist Jin Meyerson and Swedish artist Anders Krisár, is an interesting example of the intrinsic generative possibilities of the iterative process existing between art and life, exploring an endless source for confrontation and negotiation. The exhibition surveys the deep layers of unique individualities and their formal rendering on canvas and/or molding into sculptural pieces, following the artists’ journeys in search of completion, or perhaps, new questions and forms.
Curated by Swedish-born and New York-based curator Cecilia Dupire, the exhibition was firstly presented in Stockholm at CFHILL, to then travel to South Korea to be held in three different leading venues: GALLERY2 and Noblesse Collection in Seoul, and Johyun Gallery in Busan. Although the exhibitions at GALLERY2 and Johyun Gallery have now closed, it is on view until May 26 at Noblesse Collection. Across all the three venues, the exhibition offers a glimpse into how different autobiographical visual accounts unfold instances of personal negotiations, untold stories, and contested and imagined memories. In its purest sense, TWO-FOLD allows us to explore the breadth in which past experiences act as a driving force in life, in a generative process able to open layers of production, expanding any restriction or limit as time goes by:
“There is a violent and radical physical intensity in both artists' approach and style which depict their relationships to their direct surroundings” - says Cecilia Dupire - “While Jin’s work is rich and dense in layers and chromatism, Anders’ work is a journey to simplicity and elimination. As a result, both artists play with the opposing relational forces between the physical and psychological. This feeds the artworks with very distinct expressions which end up eliciting specific behaviors and responses from the viewers, inviting them to question their own relationships with the surroundings through the stunning arrangements and manipulations of form and color”.
The connection between the two artists is not a casual one, but rather the result of two respective encounters with Dupire:
“I met Jin briefly six years ago through our common friend, the architect Markus Dochantschi. I wrote him an analysis of his work, which resulted in extremely vibrant conversations ever since. I first saw one of Anders' torso sculptures at my brother’s home. I was taken aback by its striking physical expression and asked to meet the artist. Our physical meeting, similar to that of Jin, was short due to my flight back to New York, but I followed up a few days later with my written impression of his sculpture Eva (2016). Our exchanges resulted in the publication of the monograph “Anders Krisár’s Sculpture”.
Having a deep interest in the relationship between human psychology and art, Dupire was fascinated by the visual languages that originate from both artists’ complex biographies, which made them explore the struggles between independence and the quest to belong, through unique visual narratives.
In this article, we enter in conversation with artists Anders Krisár and Jin Meyerson on the two-fold possibilities of art as a psycho-physical process.
Valentina Buzzi (VB): Jin and Anders, both of your practices examine the elaboration and negotiation of personal history. It seems that your art, as a method, becomes a place for ongoing research within your own self. This quest is visually rendered in peculiar ways in both of your works presented in these three interconnected shows. With Jin, we see the emergence of a range of abstract, complex, and intense painterly layers. As for Anders, the body, in its sculptural, minimal, and figurative form, becomes the focal center. I would like to ask you about the relationship between the themes you investigate and how they are formally rendered in your work.
Jin Meyerson (JM): My work has always been centered on painting, though the layers of my process have shifted and expanded constantly. My earliest works, which were created in the late 1990s in New York City, where I began my career with a dual narrative, have defined my direction over the last 2 decades. It has revolved around the impossibility of expanding paintings' historical present and the development of image sampling as a democratized alternative to appropriation, as well as a post-colonial recovery method. Through the advancement of both my conceptual practice as well as technology, my work has now grown to include video, augmented reality overlays, and installations.
Anders Krisár (AK): There is really only one theme: the theme of being, meaning being together with others and with oneself. Visually, this can take many shapes since I never try to steer my work in a particular manner. However, once one gets a deeper understanding of my work, the underlying relationships between different pieces become clearer. I started making art quite late, at 27, and I have to say that there hasn’t been a drastic change in my expression over the years. Sometimes, I find that the sketches I made for a project can be over five years old as I do not feel a rush to produce work. I believe there is more of an acceptance of failure nowadays, that wasn’t necessarily there earlier. My situation is more stable now, so I can afford to have projects not work out. This gives me greater freedom to experiment. I think I’ve also allowed myself to be more abstract in recent years (see for instance, Untitled #2 (2017), Camera Obscura 1-4 (2020)).
VB: Anders, a recurrent motive in your work is related to interpersonal relationships and their complexities. Your sculptural works always present two bodies, or two halves or parts of such bodies, attempting to create a connection. In some cases, such as with Torso 5 (2022), the two halves can touch and hold each other. Other times, such as in your One as Two (2003-2005) works, the two sculptural faces are put in a condition in which they can never fully connect.
AK: Torso 5 (2022) stems from a series that began in 2008 with the work M (2008–2010) (and I’d been sketching the work a few years prior). It is a central work in my practice, and Torso 5 is a variation of that theme. I usually refrain from analyzing my own work as I find it redundant. Rather, I focus on being in the present moment, feeling every nuance of it; that is how I research and do my work.
Torso 5 and One as Two (2) (2004) bring to mind a lost connection, in One as Two (2) with the parent and in Torso 5 with oneself. With Torso 5, I’m trying to heal that division. When we grow up, we are given a template into which we try to fit every relationship. The challenge is to break that template and make conscious choices regarding one’s life and connections.
VB: Jin, in TWO-FOLD, you present works from the SEANCE (2021-2023) series, which are more on the figurative side and depict a human-like figure covered by fabric sheets inside what appears to be a homely environment, perhaps a bedroom. The way they are painted, the acid and vivid color use, as well as the semi-figuration that makes the scene look almost impermanent, make me curious to ask you about these specific works, and whether they are somehow related to the concept of memory, be it existing, imaginary, lost, longed for, found…
JM: Yes, very much so. I have returned to figurative work recently and this has been through the profound pilgrimage of not only my work process but also my life. Koreans very much subscribe to the idea of parapsychology through shamanism. I began the SEANCE cycle of paintings with the thought of creating a ritual with my wife and daughters that was parallel to the theosophical idea of a seance - except in the case of a seance, the subject is a deceased relative or figure who has crossed the threshold of life onto the other side. In my case, the intention was to reach into the unknown to connect with my birth mother who may still very much be alive. As the SEANCE pieces progressed, I also began thinking about the space within the canvas, as the figures were being enclosed within an interior dimension, cloaked by the sheet. I also began using LIDAR scans instead of CG or photographic reference points. From these 3D LIDAR scans, I can access multiple points of perception and entry to the same exact moment in time and space. For instance, the 2 pieces presented in GALLERY2 are taken from the exact same source and spacetime location. Painting is so inherently about folding and condensing its own time requirements and releasing it within a single glance. It's all about memory and the investigations in both the physical and imagined terms of the relations between a certain space and time, ultimately condensed in the canvas.
VB: Anders, during our conversations at the show, we discussed how your research is also deeply rooted in the investigation of materials, of their property, and how you combine them to create peculiar equilibriums and tensions in your work. Could you elaborate on that?
AK: The choice of material is indeed important to me. With the work often representing myself, you could say that the material is my flesh. Sometimes, the right choice of material is absolutely necessary for the idea to make sense, especially when it’s conceptually connected to the meaning of the work. Different materials also have varied meanings to me. For example, wax represents the malleable in ourselves, a progression, a state of change. Using it, I often refer to my childhood or memories of childhood in general, such as in Bronze/Wax #1 (2006) or Bronze/Wax (2020). In the same context, bronze can represent the permanent and cemented, such as adulthood, my mother and father, to name a few examples.
VB: To continue our conversation on materials and mediums, your work, Jin, seems to survey the liminal space between the physical and the digital, formally rendered through AR overlays. I remember the first time we met at the Venice Biennale in 2022, where I was able to see your work The Politics of Memory (2010), and experience its digital expansion. Some months later, during a studio visit, we discussed how you started working with AR in the 90s, and how this new tool was somehow connected to the tension between the current possibilities of digital memory and data storage, and the lack of them in the pre-data age, which had compromised your own research for your identity and origins. How does it all tie together?
JM: I began exploring distortion filters connected to randomization software in the mid-1990s, and this was the very genesis of my work. I had just moved to New York City from graduate school in Philadelphia with a head full of Adorno. Painting, as a practice, had been declared a resolved closed-loop circuit, meaning that everything had already been accomplished and that any painting being created was a post-historical gesture.
Being a young artist who did not believe in limits, I was convinced I could add to the history of painting. At the same time, as an adopted Korean who was raised by a Swedish-American mother and a Jewish-American father, I was also desperate to find a way to talk about ideas of identity and presence without falling back on the co-opted choreographies of standardized identity art, which was the strategy of appropriation.
I discovered that with image sampling, in concert with CG and painting, I could create this alternative pre-meta space that was complete without hierarchical structure, in fact taking painting into a frontier that had clearly not been explored. Eventually, when I discovered that all records of my birth had been lost at the orphanage in Incheon in a fire, the idea of my sketches as birth records and their relationship to the paintings led to the creation of an experiential presentation via AR that could convey and carry the core meaning, the ambient presence of the source material and the physicality of the paintings.
VB: Anders, in TWO-FOLD, you are also presenting a series of photographic works, precisely chromogenic prints called Camera Obscura (2020). These works are part of a bigger installation, including both a series of prints and sculptures presented at CFHILL in 2020. How is chromogenic print as a medium incorporated into your research and work at large? I am also thinking of works such as Flesh Cloud (Photograms #1-5) (2014) or Mist Mother (2006).
AK: Camera Obscura (2020) comprises four large-format analog prints. Each photograph is shot from above, closely framed to show what appears to be a bare torso and a mirror that partially reflects it. However, this torso is a hyperreal polyester resin impression and a concave object. If you look closely at the photographs, the shadows will reveal the reverse of what your eyes expect: the rib cage and sternum sink inward where they should protrude, and the belly button extends outward to a sharp peak.
I don’t differentiate my photographs from my sculptures. What is most important, for me, is the idea. Whether the idea becomes a photograph or a sculpture is not a big concern of mine. That is just part of the artistic process itself. Chromogenic prints are just another material, like marble or polyester (albeit in two dimensions). Camera Obscura is a good example of choosing a suitable material since it began as an object. Then, I added the proper lighting, angle, and cropping onto the object before turning it into a photograph—the optimal medium, I think, for this idea to communicate its meaning.
With the Flesh Cloud series (and Mist Mother etc.), photography was the more obvious choice of medium since it would be unnecessarily challenging to manifest this idea differently. It also plays with the tradition of photography and filmmaking.
VB: Jin, at GALLERY2, you present a series of small-scale works named ALLELE (2022), which reminds me of your investigation into image sampling, layering, algorithms, and Frontier Optics, which you are a pioneer of. As someone who had the chance to visit your studio in Mullae-dong, learn the process, and be fascinated by it, I would like to ask you if you could guide our readers through it as well.
JM: Like most of my work, the ongoing ALLELE (2021-2023) sequence of paintings began with a conversation. Aptly, this was through an introduction to the study of epigenetics via Cecilia.
My work can be organized into groupings and one of them is the idea of Autobiographical Abstraction. When I began the RETURN project in 2019, I started with a self-portrait and sampled components of this painting to create 2 works, FATHER (2020) and MATRIARCH (2020-2021). These were in turn sampled and became the source for around 10 pieces, all uniformly-sized, which bear the title GENEALOGY (2021). When Cecilia and I had a conversation about them, she mentioned this idea of epigenetics, which are the environmental and contextual influences, especially psychology and trauma, which can directly influence our core DNA. In researching the idea further, I came upon “allele” which is the term used to differentiate the slight but significant distinctions in our DNA. The small paintings, which were made from this sort of family tree with the self-portrait FATHER, MATRIARCH, and the GENEALOGY pieces, are another step inwards in the evolution of the work.
VB: The eschatological or cathartic potentials of art are something I find myself going back to often. TWO-FOLD, in its simplest meaning, refers to “double”. If I had to interpret the leitmotif of this show, I would reason on the ongoing tension between oneself and the elements that prevent a perceived wholeness, meaning those pieces of ourselves that we lack and thus are constantly longing for. As artists, I wonder if you find in art a path towards a resolution, or rather, if the possibility of a resolution does not exist, art becomes the way in which you can address, convey, and explore such tension, with art becoming a medium, a liminal space for enquiry, revelation, discussion, and negotiation.
JM: I certainly don't feel that contemporary art, or at least contemporary painting, is focused on providing endgame strategies, relief or release. Perhaps, if you are including the grand history of art, this can apply. I find that a lot of contemporary art is far more focused on stylistic appearance or creating awe in visuality, and not on conveying transformational meaning, which might be on the other side of the spectrum to eschatology and catharsis.
Of course, there is never a single entry point, answer or interpretation of art. For both Anders and I, the process of making satisfies an urge to create on our own distinct terms, yet there is a deep-seeded commonality of meaning that Cecilia's vision has drawn into clarity. I am constantly looking to expand the limits of what I do, and while I have reached a definitive mid-career point where I have lived and made work for long enough to see sequences of both my life and work reach a certain completion, any answers which may have emerged only lead to more and more questions. There is a state of resolved acceptance that I need to achieve in my work which exists in an alternative ambient space that allows for renewal. Renewal is a step further than eschatology or catharsis.
AK: Trying to find a resolution is perhaps asking too much, but maybe I can hope for a better self-understanding through my practice.