Jinny Yu’s artistic development has been following the trajectory of a very personal exploration. Born in South Korea and raised in Canada, Yu treats the act of painting as a means to understand her position in the world. Her research began by examining what it means to be split between two worlds: the East and the West – unable to call one place ‘home’. From this exploration were born bodies of work such as Me(n)tal Perspectives (2004-2005) and Story of a Global Nomad (2007-2008). Yu has lived in numerous cities across the globe, settling temporarily in New York, Seoul, Montreal, Berlin, and Venice among others. She came to recognize that there are multitudes of Easts and Wests. This led to a new understanding of painting as expending beyond the pictorial surface which translated in her practice by a gradual detachment from the two-dimension scope and an involvement with the complexities of trIdimensionality.
Over the course of the last decade, her work has responded actively to spatial concerns – how to inhabit both the physical space and the representational plane. Using reflective surfaces that she bends, crumples and paints, she lets the changing conditions of the exhibition space take central stage. But the work is still about her: she sees her own reflection as she manipulates the reflecting material but chooses to leave her image wavering, unsettled. She testifies to the fragility of existence – as evoked by the precarious coupling of sprayed Korean ink on aluminum in Black Matter. The works in About Painting (2010) and Non-Painting Painting (2012) are self-portraits not despite but because they are an existential study of spatial dynamics – of how one is affected as much as how one affects their surroundings.
Home has always been an abstract concept without a definite geography for the artist. Rather, it has found meaning in a series of gestures. Painting has been the instrument of this research. In the last three years, Jinny Yu’s perspective on her own nomadism has shifted. In 2015, she produced a significant piece, Don’t They Ever Stop Migrating? (2015) which led her to the realization that ‘feeling foreign everywhere’ is a positive posture in the world, particularly at a time of surging nationalism and anti-immigration movements. Feeling foreign enlarges her circle of otherness, increases the opportunities for compassion and allows a wider range of perspectives to coexist in her universe. And as issues surrounding migration are expected to rise in upcoming years, her outlook not responds with relevance to the present and future contexts, but finds a critical urgency.
Text by Anaïs Castro