Nature in Son Jang Sup’s work is closely connected with the history of the people. In Son’s recent works from the 2000s, nature shifts from a background for the people’s life and becomes the people themselves. For that reason, the elements that signify or are directly related to the lives of the people disappear in his works. In short, Son’s understanding of the people is reflected in his works through his observation and representation of nature.
With this idea in mind, what is the meaning of the people depicted as trees and landscapes? The people are not depicted as oppressed or suffering, nor as resisting and antagonistic, as they were in Son’s historical paintings from the 1980s. Instead, the people are depicted as silent as the trees and mountains in his later work. However, this silence does not imply incapacity or passivity. In fact, it signifies just the opposite. The silence represents the most powerful resistance and the most determined and energetic force of the people. The calm and non-boisterous tree that exists and protects itself in one place for over 500 years is the very image of the essential force of history and life: the people. Son Jang Sup grasps the vitality and strength of the people and symbolically equates it to nature’s force and strength, a force evident in his trees and landscapes. His work captures this essential power as silent and tranquil, yet always as dynamic, embodying the spiritual sublimity of this force in his work.
Hyejong Yoo l Curator, Art Historian
Excerpt from “Painting as Tangible Vestige of History: SON Jang Sup’s Paintings from the 2000s”