Solo exhibition of Suk Chuljoo
The Ideal and the Real, and the Meeting with the Classics
Picture full of dreamy fantasy, as if a large mass of iceberg were melting, or like shimmering heat waves, is the characteristic impression of the artist’s works. It is immensely light as if floating in the air, and is heavy and solemn as if it were great weight. His picture floating in the space as if all the things have a organic life neither insist on the shape, nor revealed the colors. Therefore his works neither sink in the frame of concreteness, nor concentrate upon playing with colors, and only makes sound through a subtle and tiny movement. The sound is extremely delicate and soft. It could be perceived obviously through the naked eyes, yet it does not appeal to the eyesight but trust to the sense. It does not the visual interest but the fantastic panorama delivered through vibration and sound like an ornamental sound technique while playing a string instrument.
A series of his works named “New wandering in a peach orchard in a dream” could be a just representative style that contain the artist’s character and specialty perfectly. The landscape style picture summarized with specified colors is thrilling through its leisurely style. It does not manifested only by its physical size, but by its mental scale of the depth and size of the space which contains . The amusement and fun of the landscape in which grand mountains become harmonious is definitely his own. It is familiar to the viewers because it maintains landscape style. But his landscape paintings do not follow the traditional landscape painting style. His landscape isolates the nature to a secluded place and set. At same time it excludes all kinds of complex objective explanation and secure the rule of autonomous formation automatically and in that way it create a nature like paramita which is different from the real nature. He draws mountains, yet doesn’t display the mountains. Instead he fulls down the shape of mountains to express the air and secure the remote space. His landscape built up in this way creates a certain distance from the spectators. This distance which exists like a margin is just the point at which the ideal and the real crosses and merges.
He displays the border line of the ideal nature which became forgotten like a dim legend using the very old style landscape paining and wandering in the strong symbolic space and the peach orchard as if in a dream. It might be the lost paradise wandering in a dream into which only entrance could be his imagination. His peach orchard maintains a certain distance from the spectators. The mountains are broken down, and then rise and then become reconstructed so that the ideal of the artist becomes concrete. It could be delivered only through the traces of the activities and not revealed through the poor explanation. Therefore in his works the share of the artist and the share of the spectators are divided obviously. It could be the border of the ideal and the real, the separation of the holiness and the secularity. However he does not divide the boundary with intention. Only he divides the share of the artist as an activist and the share of the spectator. His dreamy wandering could not be limited because there is no intentional explanation. Because there is no modification and no explanation, the boundary could be expanded boundlessly and could be interpreted variously by the sense of a spectator and make the way to reach the utopia of countless peach orchards.
This artist’s sight and the understanding toward the nature seems to be the standing rule which the artist applies to his working consistently. This keynote is also maintained still in his works named “The Memory of the Nature”. His works summarizing and representing the ordinary trivial impressions are full of traces of countless activities. Sometimes they build up shapes, sometimes they reveal the shapes. The goal of the activity is not merely the revelation of the shape, but to give the meaning to itself and make the regular rhythm and metrical unit. In fact, the part one should pay attention to his works is not the expressed contents but the traces of the fortuity made by accumulation of the activities and the atypical order made by these fortuities. For him the drawing activity is not reflected as a result but as a process. The accumulation of countless activities are reflected as a formation of concrete shapes through collision and contrast, and the harmony and balance.
It it the harmony of complex relative value like chance and the inevitability, visible things and invisible things etc. The composition of the flower pot appeared like a silhouette among thick and abundant leaves as real to nature could be judged. It could be the contrast of the nature and the artificiality and also the contrast of artificiality and randomness. It would be the ideal and the real, the artificiality and the randomness and the contrast of the visible fact and the sensible truth. Though he uses new formative style escaped from the traditional material, various traditional oriental painting elements could be found out in his works. It is also same in the approach to the material like the landscape or the nature, especially the working method made momently according to the character of the material. One could say it would not a description or a representation but the revelation of the feeling and the sense, it is not the drawing but is close to the expression. Though the quiet activities become formative elements one by one, but eventually they became all together as a frame through interaction. And it contains regular rhythm and metrical unit as if it reflects the artist’s breathing. And the display of the large picture plane which is summarized and expressed totally specific colors without division back and forth or regardless of distance represent just that he is not interested in the visible reality, but in something different which is expressed of itself.
Like a phrase “Iheongsasin”, that is, the spiritual thoughts could be expressedd through the formative expression, the artist pays attention to the immanent space of more abundant resonance of the backside of the expressed things. It makes not only all kinds of interpretation and variation like a margin, but also positive thing that forms another different meaning and value.
The interest of the artist in the landscape and the nature now confronts old classics. In fact, the painting “New wandering in a peach orchard in a dream” is also an subjective adaptation of “Wandering in a peach orchard in a dream” by Ahn Gyeon which is one of the classics of Korean art, and his works using the shape of white porcelains and Buncheong(Grayish blue powdered) celadon also take advantage of the existing classical contents. However the new attempt of the artist is not the negative and partial part such as adaptation or borrowing but produces different situation accomplished through the direct confrontation with the works of the ancestors which already became the tradition.
The change of the character of the space in Jo Hi Ryong’s painting “A House with plum tree”, Jeon Gi’s painting “A house with plum tree”, Gang Hi Eon’s painting “The Mt. Inwang” through the magnification according to the actual ratio or a slight modification manifest it. The adaptation of these works which were originally as big as a drawing book or scroll style small pictures to a several tens magnified large-sized picture provoke strong visual impulse. Because they are already familiar to us, they do not seem strange but the newly interpreted parts of the classic works impart different feeling. Then what would be the thing the artist encounters through this? It might not the blind imitation or servile following. However he would in no case depend on the visual effect made through the simple magnification. As already in the painting “New wandering in a peach orchard in a dream”, he attempts the encounter with the old past through the adaptation and reinterpretation of the classics. It could be interpreted that he reflects today and judges his position through this. The new attempt of the artist reminds of the Korean verse Sijo of Toegye Yi Hwang(A famous scholar during Yi dynasty ) of itself.
The deceased could not see me I also cannot see them
Though I cannot see the deceased the way they went is before me
When the way they went is before me, how can I go another way
Though we cannot see the ancestors to learn and get enlightenment, he attempts to begin dialogue through direct confrontation with the works. And he will study the reason and the principles fumbling with the point of a pen after the way the ancestors wandered and went. Its value is not in the shapes made by the mere representation of old paintings but in the quiet spiritual world they contain. After building a simple straw thatched house where plum tree are abundant and reading a books leisurely and enjoy the season fully is really the sign of the seclusion. In the present life in which the change became daily event and the speed is regarded as an important value and the materialistic wealth became the standard of the life, he commands a view of today suddenly through the simple and rural and unworldly value. It might not be the ideological thing read through the mere shapes would be the basic value which can be read automatically by the gene information and felt naturally though body.
It might not the unessential things expressed through the expression like wit or technique, but the essential thing which is deeply rooted in the spirit. As these his works expressed the idealized nature newly through the adaptation and interpretation of the painting “The wandering in a peach orchard in a dream”, it is understandable to reveal another spiritual value through the confrontation with the classics.
In fact, his works do not pursue any new things solidly in regard of the material. Fantastic landscapes as idealized nature or fragments of the memory collected from daily trivial impressions, and all the works using the porcelains are also the adaptation of already existing old things. That the artist transforms them into the power of creation making topic of the works could be interpreted in several meanings. Among them the thing that could be counted on the fingers is that he take notice of the meaning of the tradition through extremely traditional and classical things or the germinated and matured special sense in relation with the life of our nation for a long time. He get into conversation with the past through very traditional things, and confronts with the time today and value of the presence. Though it is fossilized worn out and old-fashioned, yet it obtained another meaning by securing new life power through his adaptation. When we think of the fact that though there were efforts to reinterpret and recover the tradition, yet they stayed in the level of mere borrowing, the obvious sense of value and the aim he shows consistently through his whole works deliver us obvious message at present today. He pays attention to the another value existing beyond the shapes steadily and made efforts to their expression.
It might be out of date to divide the genres and the division of the tradition and the modern times is worn-out. Yet the situation of our art today needs still these criteria and principles to some extent. It might be caused by the situation of the times as an art in a transition period, however the recovery and the review about lots of values buried in the name of modern times are very urgent. Especially the value which the traditional paintings contains exists only in the history and actually it does not have any special meaning today. But we should keep in mind that the art are not in the dimension of a mere material production, but the product of a keen spiritual activity. Besides if it changes and makes the rich contents instead of development, one should admit the fact that the past and the presence and the future are closely connected with invisible something.
What Suk, Chul Joo, as an artist, shows is not the disposition of a craftsmanship who follows the obstinate tradition, and not the blind adaptation of the tradition. He confronts with the tradition on the basis of the firm recognition of his own identity, and breathes today with it as the power of creation. Thus his works are familiar yet new, strange but friendly. At the slightest slip he could be buried in the boundlessly deep swamp of the tradition, but the artist overcomes it wisely. Because he did not follow the object over the transom or gave hasty credit. He does not stare at the tradition or things, but sees them from a certain distance with the viewpoint of contemplation. Because such a distance was secured, he could be free from the value and the meaning and the weight of the object, and also the creation through the adaptation becomes possible. And this is caused totally through the ability of the artist. The quantity of his works is really enormous. Besides the quantity, most of the exhibition works are huge works to measure.
The working process he showed was to break down the thick and stubborn frames continuously. The progress was made from all sides to the material and the expression, the material and the technique. Now what he now confronts should be another frame. What is different from before is the thing he confronts is the basic spirit not the form or material. Because it pays attention to the invisible value, the adaptation would be various enormously. His works are not the one-sided thing going forward in the name of the presence, but the familiar thing made with the security of the enough space of sympathy. Besides it is not a stuffed thing confined in a worn-out and old matrix, but radiates brilliantly more in the time today. He is future-oriented through the old past while confirming today’s coordinates where he is through fierce self denial. Judging from the aspects of changes he showed and the result of fierce speculation his new attempt and approach are enough to expect another things.