Regarding the Moon as an Object (or a Photographic Subject)
Kiwon Lee (Art Critic)
The Moon is a satellite of Earth and the closest astronomical object to the planet. The Moon’s diameter is approximately 3,500 kilometers, which is 1/4 of that of the earth and 1/400 of that of the Sun. Seen through the scale of the universe, the Moon is a very small satellite, which makes it meaningless to compare its size to that of the Sun. However, (at least in the sentimental terms,) the Moon exists in our everyday scenery as something that is not so much different from the Sun. Let’s be reminded of the fact that as the sunrise and sunset have become the standards of measuring a ‘day,’ the waxing and waning of the Moon also function as a certain standard.
The Sun and the Moon came to possess the same status despite the huge difference in the scale of their mass. Wouldn’t the reason be the fact that both look almost the same to our eyes in terms of scale? The size of the Sun is big enough to defy any comparison to that of the Moon, but it looks much smaller than its real size since it is far away from the Earth. On the other hand, the Moon does not seem to be that small to naked eyes since it is far closer to the Earth than the Sun although it is smaller than the Earth. In fact, the perceived diameters of the Sun and Moon (as astronomical objects seen from the Earth) are similar. Thanks to this fact, we can observe the total eclipse of the Sun. In fact, the total eclipse of the Sun is not different from blocking the Sun from one’s view with his palm. However, what we see with our eyes often precedes what really exists.
In the exhibition Grey Ground, Jihyun Im presents 70 Grey Moons, a series of paintings depicting the Moon. The series was initiated from the 72 photos of the full moon that the artist had captured on her way home from her studio in one night in March this year. The photos she took are not refined photographic images, and they are not so much different from the image of the Moon taken by any camera on a smartphone. Since the Moon is a photographic subject brighter than one might think, one has to increase the aperture of the lens or use a fast shutter speed. However, it is difficult to adjust the aperture and shutter speed in the default camera application on the smartphone. Even if one adjusts the camera of the smartphone to be set in low exposure, it is almost impossible to capture the image of the Moon as one might have seen on the news or in the encyclopedia. For these reasons, the Moon in the 72 photos made by the artist is put in the state of ‘white out’ due to over-exposure. The clouds around the Moon are also depicted in forms that resemble certain blots or patterns. The photos mostly do not function as ‘a tool to depict the Moon.’ In fact, if the artist really wanted to depict the Moon, it might have been much easier not to refer to the photos that she had taken but to a photo of the Moon in an encyclopedia. (In addition, both the moons are essentially the same object.) Nevertheless, the artist cut the photos she had taken, leaving the part depicting the Moon at the center. She changed the size of the images to fit eight photos into one sheet of A4-sized paper, each of them with the width of 7 centimeters. She then printed them with a regular copy machine used at offices. In this way, the link between the Moon in her photos and the Moon in reality becomes looser. The artist put up the photos, which almost seemed to have lost their function as a reference due to their shrunk size and lowered resolution, on her easel and drew paintings on the square-shaped canvases that were in the size of 19 cm by 19 cm.
What do the images shown in 70 Grey Moons depict and what is the object that the artist has seen and depicted? The images created by the artist and the depicted object can be identical, but certain aberration might exist in between. Obvious is that what the artist has depicted is neither the Moon as an astronomical object nor the Moon in her photos.
It also stands in a different context than the result of drawing the Moon directly, which is created after seeing it with her own eyes and capturing its image by using a camera as a tool. Then, does the artist depict the scenery with the Moon that she saw by herself as the object of her work? Indeed, it seems that neither the scenery the artist saw with her eyes nor the photos she captured contain anything to be taken as a fiducial point. If the artist intended to depict what she had seen and transfer it to the canvas, she needed not to ‘white out’ the Moon, which has lost the details by the over-exposure, with empty space on the canvas without paints (she could observe the surface of the Moon with her naked eyes). Since I saw that photos of the Moon put up on the easel at the artist’s studio were very low in their quality and resolution, it is also difficult to assume that the artist drew her paintings merely out of the photos of the Moon that she had taken. The photos seemed to be close to certain patterns or abstracted figures. Then, the object depicted by the artist may not be conveying the experience that can be divided by the unit of ‘scenes’ in terms of its visual dimension. Wouldn’t it be the case that the experience and images, which the artist had gone through during the 13-minute period of taking photos of the Moon, became the foundation of her work? Aren’t the photos be merely produced as by-products of that process? If the expressive object of Im’s work is the very continuous instant in which the images shaped by the lens of a smartphone’s camera capturing the full moon were swaying on the LCD screen - the timeline of the LCD screen during the 13-minute period, the 70 photos remain as an index that captures the very timeline. In this context, the series 70 Grey Moons should be seen as a singular work composed of 70 canvases, not as a group of 70 paintings that respectively correspond to the images they refer to. Of course, this is not a confident affirmation. Even if one acquires an explicit explanation from the artist, I do not think that it should be the only way to observe and appreciate this work. Rather, what makes this work intriguing is the very abstractness that leads the viewers to develop different speculations and imaginations, which reminds of us the fact that there are times when how the Moon looks to us and how we interpret it are more important than the existence of the Moon as an object.
Translated by Jaeyong Park