2 - 31 July 2010Following on from his previous series of photographs, Existing in Costume, Chan-Hyo Bae’s new work continues to explore themes of identity, alienation and memory through the form of exquisitely staged scenes of traditional fairytales.
Since graduating from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2007, Chan-Hyo Bae has expressed in his work the feelings of cultural and emotional estrangement he experienced when he first came to study in England. He wrote: “as an Asian man, there were many restrictions on entering the western culture”.
The Existing in Costume series saw the artist posing in a variety of female historical western costume. Researched in meticulous detail, he created elaborate scenes of himself as a noblewoman from the Elizabethan to Regency periods. Having felt that the West possesses a misplaced sense of superiority over the East, and that Eastern men are considered sexually unattractive to Western women, he portrayed himself as a western noblewoman: both desirable and superior to others.
The recent works draw further on the idea of placing oneself into a collective consciousness within the dimensions of nationality. Chan-Hyo Bae has chosen as his subject the realms of western fairytales: stories that have permeated our culture and become embedded into our general psyche. As in his previous series, which in turn was inspired by traditional European portraiture, he employs a painterly approach to the subject matter. The combination of carefully scouted locations, authentic costumes, props and settings lend the images an air of historic grandeur, heightened by the use of strong and rich colours.
The focus on fairytales, a product of history rather than history itself, allows the artist to travel further into our culture and society by embodying not just the people but also the characters they have created, characters often so reflective of society as a whole. For someone who has not encountered them before, these fairytale characters become a vivid source of inspiration in understanding the traditions and values of a different culture, aiding him, perhaps, in becoming more British.