Chong Gon Byun
When I was growing up in Korea, I always noticed a family portrait adorned by an antique frame, placed at the center with care, where it can be shown with dignity. Those tarnished and yellowing photographs would reveal the family’s past, leading in the present and even the future. This image became imbedded in my mind. And while pursuing my artistic activity in New York City for the past 23 years, the memory of this same image became the driving force for my creative outlet. Throughout the 5,000 years of history, we Koreans placed much emphasis on living in harmony with nature, and paying respect to the parents and elders. Whether the items were antique or new, it was customary for the previous generation to hand over those ancestral objects to the next generation, as a ritual. The objects that were used and are no longer useful, still has its unique history and invaluable story to tell. And through the passage of time this particular object went through, it has social, cultural, political and religious significance- that might or might not be historically correct in reflecting the true past. Pinpointing this aspect has become the motto of my work. My main work consists of painting and assemblage of discarded objects, cast away from our industrial consumer society; as I formulate it into a sculpture or a panel, to rearrange and reconnect these found objects, to give it a new meaning and rejuvenate its life. Therefore, the clash between post-industrial civilization, and the present capitalist culture, becomes my main theme and cause for concern; as I also ponder about the role of religion and how it effects our everyday existence, to find the ultimate meaning of life.