Gallery Minnim Seoul
In the Summer of 2018 I could held my solo-exhibition for the first time in South Korea, about 23 years after I left my homeland. It was not easy to find a place for my exhibition, because I hadn't done much to earn recognition in the Korean art world, ever since I left Korea. However I could luckily come in contact with a young gallerist, Minhye Cho, who also studied Fine Arts in Australia. She got an old traditional Korean-style house in Seoul modernised to be a small yet elegant and neat exhibition space 'Gallery Minnim' with a cozy cafe inside, a place of relaxation. My exhibition was held there from 5th September to 17th November 2018.
Works of art exist as reflections of the self. What is reflected in works of art varies depending on the inclination, will and value system of the artist. Some artists desire to mirror the reality of our fragmentary, phenomenal life. Others try to project their dreams or deep consciousness onto the canvas. For certain artists, transcendental experiences become sources of inspiration to display on canvas. Whatever the artist’s circumstances may be, their works will truthfully mirror the self.
What do I want to mirror? The paintings presented in this exhibition come from my desire to unveil the element of love. It is an element hidden in every dimension of our life. When we are confronted by the capricious faces of life, when we dream, when we delve into the deep consciousness of the inner self, when we thirst after the transcendental—these are all situations in which we search for love.
In recent years, my works have been devoted to the theme of ‘Life’s vitality’, with a focus on the theme of ''Spring of Life'' in its femininity. While pursuing this theme, certain questions came across my mind: What decides the life force of an object? What gives a painted object vitality? I approached these questions from an epistemological point of view, concluding that how much we relate to a particular object determines whether or not the object is given life. When we care for the other, be it something or someone, and ultimately familiarize ourselves with the other, we are compelled to live together with the other in joy. It is our love that energizes us and the other, granting vitality to both.
In 2016 I held a solo exhibition in St. Arbogast, a centre for education and culture located in the region of Vorarlberg in Austria. Every two years since 2003, St. Arbogast organizes a one-week program called ‘Days of Utopia — Festival for a good Future (Tage der Utopie — Festival für eine gute Zukunft)’. Critical questions, in addition to alternatives solutions, concerning the present situation are raised during the program in the field of politics, economics, social systems, culture and arts, etc. For the people who organize and take part in this program, the idea of ‘Utopia’ is not a mere dream, but reality. It is not thought to be a world that simply exists in a far-off place, but a reality that must be shaped and built. Radiating from these people who gathered to actualize their ideal future, I could perceive ‘Utopia’ as a living entity and feel their love for the object ‘Utopia’. The breath of these people in love seemed to whisper to me, “You have to think about why you paint, once more”. When I first started painting, I was able to fall in love with whatever object I painted. However as time went on, the processes of painting and analyzing the object became more of a struggle to understand. Using a simile, it is similar to how my love for mountains encouraged me to trek them, but I had become so absorbed with searching for the right trails that I had forgotten to appreciate the mountains I had loved so dear.
Finally I returned to the prime teaching of the Far Eastern arts that I studied in beginning art classes and onwards, , that is, the singularity of the subject and the object. In the Far East, the concept of becoming one with the object of painting is regarded as both the highest state of mind, and the goal of the arts. Although I had no problem understanding this abstract concept, I was unable to apply this understanding, unable to connect with my own paintings. However, while engrossed in this question about love for painted objects, I finally saw the connection between the concept and my paintings. What leads the subject to become one with the object? Love. Without love, the painter cannot be one with the object to be painted.
When parts are broken and separated from the whole, we call them fragments. In order for these fragments to be endowed with life, they must seek to connect with the whole. If an individual self is neither seen in bond with the organic whole nor in relation to other elements of life, it remains as an isolated, lifeless fragment. Love ties us as fragments to the broader parts of life. Through love we are not isolated, even gaining life and freedom, because love possesses the ability to connect us to the broader world. One may even say, love is the indispensable principle that redeems a fragmentary self to organic life. Love makes us endure torments and see the light piercing through the darkness. Even love as an abstract transcendental principle is experienced in us through our love for particular objects.
Ultimately, I believe my works are meaningful when individual objects, including me, the artist, are interconnected through love to create a space where we feel further freedom.