SOOYOUNG CHUNG - SELF ON THE SHELF
Maddox Gallery is delighted to host Self on the Shelf, a uniquely introspective exhibition of paintings by the South Korean artist Sooyoung Chung. Each work features a shelf, or shelves, on which lie a host of objects that are laden with meaning and question what the concept of identity means to the artist.
At first glance, the paintings could be viewed as 21st-century still-life’s, with a hint of the uncanny or the surreal. Chung, however, sees them as self-portraits, albeit ones that reveal her hopes, fears and struggles. "I am the objects on the shelves, and the objects are me," says the artist of her works.
Born in Seoul in 1987, Chung studied at Ewha Womans University in her home city. After completing an MA at London’s Royal College of Art, she continued living and working in the capital. When she first arrived in the UK, she had never been apart from her family. Shopping for herself for the first time, she created a new identity through her accumulation of objects that was heavily influenced by her London life.
From cookbooks to cacti, Berocca to a ubiquitous can of Heinz baked beans, Chung decides which personal story she wants to tell and then chooses the objects to represent it. The tablets and food supplements in The Healthy Crazy refer to her preoccupation with staying healthy, while the lottery ticket and books about Bitcoin in Dubble Bubble offer a magical escape from one’s financial insecurity. The sheer range of items in The Self on the Shelf are indicative of the breadth and depth of Chung’s interests and concerns.
"One of the most interesting things about Sooyoung is how brave she was to forge a new identity in a country in which she didn’t belong and whose language she barely spoke," says Maeve Doyle, Artistic Director of Maddox Gallery. "Her anxiety-inducing struggle to make sense of this new environment through her possessions sets the scene for Self on the Shelf. We can all identity with the universal concerns that Chung addresses through these curated versions of herself, and how we use possessions and brands to communicate who we are to others and ourselves."
Her compositions are carefully planned before being executed in paint on linen. The element of planning alludes to the fact that increasingly, in the age of social media, the image one presents of oneself to the world is carefully constructed. “Shelves are at once personal and social,” says Chung. "They’re a manifestation of an individual’s personality for others to see."
With her vibrant colours, flat application of paint and use of consumer goods as subject matter, Chung’s links to Pop Art are obvious. She adds that – being South Korean and living in Britain, still striving for fluency in English – the everyday objects in her pictures serve as a universal language in which she can connect with those around her.
Chung has hosted two solo exhibitions in South Korea – One Ordinary Day at the Noblesse Collection in 2021, So <SooYoung Chung, 1987> which exhibited at New Spring Project and Dohing Art Gallery in 2022 and has participated in two group shows at Maddox Gallery – HerStory – Women in Art in 2020 and Modern Renaissance in 2022. Self on the Shelf is Chung’s first show in London and debut solo exhibition at Maddox.