Irene Kung: Daydream

Paolo Aita, November 2012 (ITA version)

Edifices challenging the clouds, implacable symmetries coming from afar, lighting revealing unheard-of features in arcane architectural systems – all ingredients we unearth in the subtle art of Irene Kung. This artist employs materials from disparate universes. Some belong to a more explicit exoticism – hence the frequent presence of China – others are emanations of American 20th century art. It is the one architects call neo-gothic, to be found on the spires and even the pinnacles of the earliest skyscrapers reaching up more than one hundred floors, which had originally been intended as a tribute to rationalism. Irene Kung’s art is thus based on contrast. On the one hand we identify a Cartesian spirit which goes to such lengths as to embrace photography as a response to scruples of plausibility and due to a certain involvements pertaining to seductive realism. On the other we find objects rendered unfamiliar as they originate from distant landscapes or peculiar angles. From this realm of shared presence, reality trespasses into dreams, with an atmosphere which is both unknown and magnetic because it is founded on realism.

From a technical point of view, one must admit that the recipe is as effective as it is ancient. The ingredients are clouds shrouding panoramas which we should not learn too much about, and a chilling symmetry where no detail is out of place. These elements captivate and enchant us, and are strewn across the works with very special mastery, hence the unique mix of antique and modern in the visual outcome of these landscapes. I am convinced the basic photographic techniques used are digital, but the result obtained carries glimmers and a glow from within objects and buildings which recalls a taste dating back to the dawn of photography, when the first mechanical images where placed on a silver slate. There is a quality of iridescence in the works of Irene Kung which is truly unique. Therefore these pieces have their own warmth and sense of closeness despite being polished in a manner reminiscent of certain industrial artefacts. As all great art, then, it is a summation of different temperatures, where beauty is reached through unexplored and contradictory machinery. This is the same one Borges called into play in his narratives, as the great Argentinean supplied us with an excess of details to increase our participation in a milieu of dream and suspension.

The same takes places in the works of Irene Kung: accuracy introduces us with efficacy into a world entirely different form our own, whose rules are the same, though even more relentless.