What Is to Be Done?

September 8 – November 3, 2012
Jinny Yu: What Is to Be Done?

Text by Stephanie Anne D’Amico

Jinny Yu has worked with industrial forms, materials, and vocabularies for the bulk of her career. From building facades to grids, she has captured the urban landscape at various points on the spectrum between representation and abstraction. Yu has an impressive international exhibition history, and her paintings are a logical insertion in any modern industrial society. The sooty black paint, sleek metal surfaces, and architectural references that reappear throughout her work all evoke the power of industry. Often painting directly on aluminum, Yu presents not only a fixture of factory-made products, but a mirror, a cue to reflect and, as the artist explains, a dynamic pictorial surface in and of itself.

What Is to Be Done? is the latest exhibition for Yu that addresses questions of materiality through the arrangement of altered reflective surfaces. The show brings together a suite of conceptual, abstract oil paintings on aluminum and mirror, unpainted mirror and aluminum sheets, and a 16mm film projection which slowly tracks one of Yu’s pieces. The addition of film is new for Yu, who has traditionally worked within the temporal and sensorial limits of painting. With its direct reference to a work in the show, the film offers an alternate viewing experience, and creates a technological doppelganger that undoes the supposed singularity of the painted object.

Favouring the concept of painting as an event rather than an object, Yu’s exhibition encourages viewers to reflect on the essential character of the medium. The reflections are both literal and metaphorical. With their shiny surfaces, modest dimensions, and mirroresque square and rectangular formations, Yu’s works pun on the age-old maxim that “art holds a mirror to life”, since what we see is often limited or distorted. To capitalize on this productive frustration, the artist punctuates partial reflections and incomplete likenesses with moments of relief and clarity in the unpainted mirrors and aluminium surfaces.

Yu has consistently found new ways to activate space through the use of visual systems and organizing principles, within an intensely logical artistic practice. Typically governed by rules, grids, and structure, she has returned to a more gestural stroke in her new work, providing clear traces of human handiwork over machine cut metals and mirrors. The evidence of the artist’s hand underlines Yu’s action-based concept of the medium, where a series of choices and a durational activity are the essential constituents of painting. In this framework, What is to be Done? becomes both the medium’s defining question and the entry point for a host of new sensibilities within painting.