Innocence and Sin

Mai Inaba(Art Critic)


I spent my childhood in a small village. Often did I see town boys toying with the frogs they had caught from the rice fields on the way home from school. Their play lasted as long as it amused them, and ended with killing the toys; it was horrifying and sinful. In memory of Artist Byung Kyu Do, he was also immersed in such cruel games as a boy. What departs him from others, however, is his burial of the frogs he killed; it is this emotional collision of innocence and brutality in his childhood memory that breeds his works. He calls it ambivalent feelings.

Do, Byung Kyu stains his dolls with transparent slime in his paintings. Through his distinctive manner of description, the stained dolls are negated of original cuteness and are displayed as symbols of sadness and scare. Colliding emotions coexist inside the human nature as well as within human society; that is what encourages the artist to raise questions.

Departing from his previous artistic style of precise painting, Do, Byung Kyu sets symbols as his motif and utilizes photography to deliver his messages. Smile badge, Coco Chanel, Peace symbol, and recycling mark are some of the familiar symbols that emerge in the middle of the black screen. As you take steps closer to get a better look at what seems pop-artistic at first glance, you soon realize that the symbols are surrounded by weapons, which triggers sudden uneasiness in the viewer's mind.

The guns used in Do's artworks are miniature plastic replicas; they do not instigate the sense of brutality or hostility of real guns. However, as he expands the sizes of miniature guns through his picture, they reclaim the image of lethal weapon. That is, the original images of guns imprinted in our minds are brought back to life. Do, Byung Kyus works tell us how easily our judgments and behaviors are influenced by image.

For instance, the luxury and elegance of luxury brands are fabricated. Their elegance washes away countless abuses and harms caused by profit-oriented corporate capitalists.

Peace mark symbolizes peace. Yet, from a different perspective, fight for peace includes use of force and defeat. Through Do's 'Symbols made with 498 replicated guns' we come to realize that a slight shift in our view can completely alter our strongly believed convictions. The various systems in our society are based on the beliefs formed by invisible forces. Such beliefs can be actively multiply and form a new type of power. Before we realize, the power deeply enroots in our minds; this is what Do refers to as "Regenerated imagery".

The recent tsunami in Japan encouraged Japanese to question one of their firmly believed convictions. Before the tragedy, most Japanese hardly questioned the safety of nuclear power plant. As we already know, the myth was proven unjustified and people in Japan had no choice but to accept their tragic reality. Goods and bads..... Do questions some of the conflicts in human society without complete denial. His artworks inspire complex feelings such as love and hatred. Do implies the importance of contemplating upon the core of everything that surrounds our lives from different aspects.