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Jeong Myoung-Jo

Jeong Myoung-Jo: The Paradox of Beauty

16 September - 25 October



Soluna Fine Art is pleased to present ‘The Paradox of Beauty’, the first solo exhibition of the contemporary Korean hyperrealist painter Jeong Myoung-Jo with the gallery and in Hong Kong. To commemorate the month of September, which signals the seasonal transition from summer to fall, Jeong’s exhibition showcases a total of 13 works from the artist’s signature oeuvre depicting the women in traditional Korean finery, the hanbok, across different seasons of life and class. ‘The Paradox of Beauty’ will be on view from 16 September – 25 October 2022.

There are deeper implications behind Jeong Myoung-Jo’s painting series, apart from the exterior beauty of the embellishments that the audience may be drawn to at first glance. In addition to the hidden faces of the women, the iconographic interpretations of the background, dresses, hairstyles, jewelry, and motifs give clues to the paradoxical meanings in beauty and status that span from the dawn of history to the modern age in Korea. For example, the backgrounds in the paintings could be distinguished into vibrant color and dark themes, illuminating the subjects’ societal positions and underlying attitudes.

The painting titled ‘Play-Ground #20-06’ portrays a gisaeng (members of the lower class who were trained to become professional artists and performers in the Joseon Dynasty) at the center of the highly stylized landscape known as the ir-wor-o-bong-do (일월오봉도;日月五峰圖), or ‘Sun and Moon and Five Peaks”. The picture was a common folding screen placed at the back of the king’s royal throne, with the sun and moon symbolizing the king and queen and the five peaks representing the dignity of kings and eternal national prosperity. Jeong’s reinterpretation of the cultural emblem may allude to how the gisaengs had also constituted a notable social group in the Joseon dynasty, inconspicuously organizing some of the most significant historical situations apart from the obligations to maintain beautiful appearances and gentle demeanors. Moreover they were often referred to as hye-uh-hwa (해어화;解語花), or ‘conversable flower’ for having exceptional skills and intelligence to offer refined conversations. In contrast, ‘The Paradox of Beauty #22-02’ spotlights the Korean queen, casting the full weight of darkness around her without external distractions. Similar to the dramatization of light and shadows in Baroque paintings to evoke subjects’ emotions, Jeong also implements the chiaroscuro technique to accentuate the queen’s longing and introspection. Despite being in full regalia, which signifies power and class, she is seen to be in a forlorn state.

Although Jeong’s paintings lament the historical oppression of Korean women from various positions, they also visually re-code and empower the subjects of the portraits to reclaim themselves from the traditional gender and class stereotypes through offering fresh insights. In a way, the historical female icons are closer to modern women, who, like gisaengs, simultaneously receive formal training and education, while behaving autonomously with genuine subjectivity within the elaborate social systems. Moreover, there are also modern women who, like the queen, appear impeccable but struggle under the clasp of strict social rubrics, and systematic oppression. This can be further illustrated by the fact that the painted figures are Jeong’s acquaintances, dressed in hanbok. who are aware of the issues that are still prevalent in the country today.

Therefore, by deliberately choosing to hide the portraits’ faces, Jeong invites the audience to re-examine the historical female beauty from modern viewpoints. The act of analyzing the paintings is also mirrored by the subjects in the paintings, who have their backs turned as if occupied by something. Moreover, the hyperrealistic portraits represent illusions, encouraging the act of inquiry into the individual perceptions and paradoxes of beauty instead of blatantly accepting them at face value.


Jeong Myung-Jo (b. 1970) was born in Korea and was inspired to pursue art by the beauty of Korean traditional clothes. However, Jeong’s work does not merely present colors and patterns. Looking at a woman in a beautiful traditional dress who has her back to the audience, one would find the age-long remorseful lament of traditional Korean women or discover the destiny of the Korean people of having to carry the past wherever they go. Viewers are bound to interpret the painting in the context of society and history, and from the perspective of self-identity. Her works have been exhibited at ARTSIDE Gallery in Korea, Gana Art Center in Korea and Art Central in Hong Kong. Her works are also housed by Hansol Cultural Foundation in Korea, Amorepacific Museum of Art and Standard Chartered in the United Kingdom.


16 September
25 October
Event Category:


Soluna Fine Art

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