Ung Pil- Byen’s Solo Invitational Exhibition


1 December  -  30 December , 2021

(Closed on Sundays, Mondays, Holidays)

The Internal Depiction and a Self-Portrait of a Person

An artist who has been receiving acclaim for paintings in the motif of “internal portrait”, Ung-Pil Byen is having a solo exhibition with his new works. However peaceful a person’s life may be, sooner or later such comfort becomes uneasy with no exception to anyone. Looking at Ung-Pil Byen’s paintings feels like observing an individual who is adjusting to living a life for the first time. And in this invitational exhibition titled <SOMEONE>, the artist is presenting about 70 pieces which are so candid as if they could be entries from his personal diary.

After receiving BFA in Western painting from Dongguk University (Korea) and MFA in Fine art from Academy of Arts in Muenster (Germany) with completion of Meister program, the artist has spent 11 years as a foreigner in Germany, which cannot but have influenced the delicate sensibilities of “a person named Ung-Pil Byen”. His returning to Seoul and continuing another “reading the minds of human beings” in “Ung-Pil Byen’s way” for 15 years may be a consolation for the heaviness of life.

The artist has practiced the painting style of having a clear message but delivering it in the utmost restraint, for he wishes for his works to be interpreted without boundaries, by each viewer according to his/her own convictions. Hence, the most important aspect of Byen’s art may be “the visual formative beauty rather than its potential message”. The form and features of a person described on canvas is constituted in least possible lines, and mere suggestion of the eyes and mouth clues in on the viewers to guess the person’s possible mood and gender. Either alone or accompanied, the people in the paintings are touching each other or turning head, but who they are and what situation they are in relies solely on imagination.

For this exhibition’s preface, Art and humanities scholar Dong-seop Lee wrote: “Since Byen’s person in <SOMEONE> is no one in particular, it can be anyone. With the minimum, the maximum is embraced. If so, are they abstract paintings? Portrayal abstracts? Abstract portraits? None of the above. They are still-life paintings. And, if that of the past were composed of vase, flowers, plant to describe the nature and/or to use them as metaphors of ethical messages, Byen’s paintings express the fundamental sense of light and color with people as the subject matter. For him, a personal figure is a space and area to be filled with colors, and with original colors of the artist’s invention in very fine brushstrokes, his own sophisticated sense is revealed.”

The above explains “Ung-Pil Byen’s style of formative beauty” actualized through simple colors and shapes to describe people, while excluding any sort of event or episode about them. Therefore, his paintings are reborn every time with the viewers’ intuitive sensibilities, an achievement that was possible through refusing to follow any trend in art and focusing on introspection. It can be assumed that many years as a student in a foreign country must have triggered Byen’s “internal portrait” series, for he’d felt unable blend in, and no matter the effort his deep mind couldn’t be understood. The emotional deficiency he must have had in such circumstance where even his own self felt unfamiliar continues in his paintings to this day.

Ung-Pil Byen’s works reflect his sincere and meticulous attitude toward each piece. By thoroughly understanding the innate characteristics of the media he chooses, the artist produces paintings with consideration of its preservation, and stays focused to maintain the undistorted “creator’s view” from the beginning stage to finish. Especially by electing subject matters that aren’t provocative, direct, or critical, Byen seeks beauty in gradual and delicate transmission of his messages.

For example, Byen’s early works are faces of himself without hair in seemingly playful distortions, or partly covered with blown gum, apple, peach, flower, leaf, etc. Since then, diverting from “self-portrait of one person”, he has been depicting figures more objectively. And it is especially endearing and fascinating to see the episodes of genderless figures unfolding like a one-act play, addressed in the manner of dealing with a common object or landscape.

The recent works are usually titled as <SOMEONE>, literally intending to mean simply “anyone” or “some person”. Continuing from his early self-portrait works, the ones now can be understood to have been produced in the disguised method of excluding unnecessary expressions of feelings. The artist’s intention “to present problems of general prejudice and discrimination through images of people with no characteristics, in objective perspective” stays unchanged as well. The paintings seem to have been created in lighter drawing method, but the media and production process are consistent. An interesting factor is that the lines that describe the figures are not drawn for that purpose, but they are the remains that still show through the covered layer of paint. The beauty of simple forms revealed through lines in blank space draws attention. 

In the end, the portrait series of Ung-Pil Byen give a feeling that they are telling our story. Someone’s child, a husband or a wife, a parent, a sibling, a friend… apart from these relational identities, the paintings lead you to focus exclusively on yourself as who you are. It is our hope that you will encounter your another self at heart, through

Ung-Pil Byen’s <SOMEONE>. 

* Hosted by Nari Kim (CEO of HORI Art Space) 

* Directed by Yoon-sub Kim (CEO of AIf Art Management)  


Installation Views

Related Artists

Byen Ung-Pil

 변웅필, (1970-)