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Almine Rech

Youngju Joung

South Korean artist Joung Young-Ju paints unique cityscapes inspired by her native country.
Softly lit at twilight, her works capture sprawling urban scenes that stretch beyond view, speckled with flickering lights that hint at a dense yet unseen human presence.   

Born in 1970, Young-Ju spent her youth drawing the buildings in her village before leaving South Korea to study Fine Art in Paris. After graduating, she returned home where she climbed Nam Mountain and saw the downtown of Seoul, lit at dusk. While her paintings are rooted in such experiences, they are also symbolic of Korean society. The city or the hill village reflect poverty and affluence. The artful illumination of these spaces imbues the painted narrow streets, reclining walls and aged rooftops with authenticity; these spaces feel inherently lived-in.   

Joung Young-Ju creates these images by crumpling and unfolding traditional Korean paper upon which she paints her work. By creasing, scratching and wrinkling the paper, the artist evokes a way of life that feels authentically dilapidated, used and reused; and yet it retains a distinctly warm and peaceful atmosphere. The medium itself has endured a wearing process, just as the buildings it presents.   

These paintings do not beautify or exaggerate, they are honest representations of exposed bricks, slate rooftops and rusted gates. These homes are reflections of their humble occupants, dimly lit and ageing, we are absorbed into this world at a fleeting moment of natural beauty before darkness descends. At the centre of this peaceful transition lies a sacred domestic routine, where each light represents a life, faintly glowing amongst the hum of the living city.

Selected artworks

  • Youngju Joung,                                      city-disappearing landscape, 2006

    Youngju Joung city-disappearing landscape, 2006

    city-disappearing landscape
    130.3 x 193.9 cm
    51 5/16 x 76 5/16 in

  • Youngju Joung,                                      Snowscape, 2016

    Youngju Joung Snowscape, 2016

    Acrylic and paper on canvas 
    194 x 130 cm
    76 3/8 x 51 3/16 in

  • Youngju Joung,                                      Disappearing landscape, 2018

    Youngju Joung Disappearing landscape, 2018

    Acrylic and paper on canvas
    162 x 130.3 cm
    63 3/4 x 51 5/16 in