March 12, 2004


The initial impression to be gained from Jinny M. Yu’s new paintings is that of a wonderfully expressive, repetitive/obsessive, linear calligraphy of visual ‘static.’ The grammar of parallel horizontals of paint barely conceals the punctuation marks of paint which seem to exist simultaneously above, behind and within that linear energy field. In sifting out these marks, one begins to realize that they may also act as a visual metaphor for natural forms such as marsh sedge and grasses.

Yu seems to have initiated the use of repetitive horizontal striations of pain found in her most recent work about a year and a half ago in Montréal. However, by comparison, the painting in Montréal gave the impression of a much more dense and impacted textural physicality in which all of the action of the paint occurs most emphatically on top of and across a resistant surface. In that sense this earlier painting was absolutely consistent with the effect which Yu expected from her usual practice of encaustic painting as her medium and process. So it is a surprise to find the new work to be painted on large sheets of paper using mixed mediums such as ink, acrylic and watercolour and in which, while still present, the encaustic medium plays a more subdued role. The result is that the most recent paintings have obtained a new weightlessness, translucency and mobility of painterly form and space.

Furthermore, the new paintings are to be embedded into the surface of the gallery’s walls. They will be absolutely flush with the surrounding wall surfaces and, in fact, appear to be painting on the surface. Since the work will not project outward from the wall, will not cast a shadow in fact, the actual installation of these new paintings will continue the action of the paintings themselves, appearing to vibrate, slightly above, or behind, the wall surfaces. For Yu, this installation system, together with the interlace effect and the 3:4 proportional format of some of the paintings, makes reference to the television format. To some degree the process has to recall Gerhard Richter’s paintings of the 1970’s and 1980’s in which photography, film and television images provided a pretext for his paintings. In Richter’s case however, the paintings refer much more directly to the content of their sources in the other media. the content of Yu’s paintings is to a considerable degree the materials and processes of painting itself as well as the manner of their installation, as much and more so, as each might refer to a particular landscape or an anonymous image drawn from a CNN broadcast.

In this respect Yu’s new paintings create an interesting paradox, while at the same time they make a quite specific statement on where painting finds itself at this time. On the one hand one could see Yu’s painting as falling squarely within the tradition of Formalist Modernism, given her disciplined exploitation of the materials and the processes of painting, and in her freedom from the increasingly stale shallows of contemporary ironic discourse. At the same time there is no mistaking her particular Post Modernist take on painting through the manipulation of its impact in this particular installation: in an unconventional presentation of the paintings Yu makes them part of the very fabric of a pubic space; almost, but not quite, a site-specific presentation more familiar to the installation of three-dimensional and performance pieces. In this respect, the current exhibition of work is very much in character for Jinny M. Yu, an artist concerned with exploring ways of breaking through the ‘Fourth Wall’ of painting and who in this exhibition finds new ways in which to connect more directly with the viewing public.

– Donald F. Andrus