Choi Woolga's World of Worlds - Shift from Primitive Natural Aesthetics toward Urban Emotion and Refined Aesthetics - Shin, Hang Seop Art critic

Can the 21st century civilization led by the electronic science guarantee an eternal happiness for mankind? Of course, many people welcome it because of extended life span and comfortable life, but relatively, not a small number of people are concerned about loss of humanity. In other words, as a considerable part of human life depends on electronic civilization, we may lose the original nature of human being. Maybe, it will be only art that can solve such a problem. Only art may well cure our modern men's barren emotion intoxicated by the electronic civilization driving us into a state of inhumanity.

Earlier through painting, Choi Woolga suggested a way to return our frozen senses and emotion to their original state. He attempted to awaken us of our original nature through the formative languages similar to rock-inscribing paintings or cave wall paintings symbolizing primitive men's life. Didn't his art aim to recover the purity of the primitive paintings harboring the incarnation or desire for a new life, excluding any technique learned? So, he treated the forms as much simple and concise as possible, while employing a method to emphasize visual clarity of colors and purity of materials.

His earlier works centered about human figures were usually rough, featuring thick texture and extremely primitive and minimal images. If the colors should have been removed, they would have revealed a crude and wild sense like primitive paintings. Moreover, the forms drawn with deep and thick lines were epitomic, because details were omitted. In addition, his paintings used to show distorted forms with their certain parts exaggerated or omitted like primitive paintings. Such characteristics of his earlier forms would be a basic frame penetrating his world of works later.

His works during 1980's were more or less difficult to understand in terms of physical images. Although the forms were simplified, they were not kind to the audience because they were distorted and deformed. In some respect, they were extremely concise and simple like those drawn by the kids who had not learned about fine art. Although children's paintings are simple, it may be difficult to understand them visually. Likewise, his works featured such forms. They were not proportional, and their forms were distorted, and the expressions were straightforward. His canvas was filled with a figure, while the forms were difficult to understand visually because they were drawn with simple and intense contour lines.

On the other hand, because he used a coloring technique like pointillism by employing the knife, the entire image was dominated by the intermediate color tone. Merely, since the contour lines controlling the forms were thick, powerful and simple, the resultant visual impression was intense. However, due to distortion and deformation, it was not easy to recover the figures in details. In addition, he did not suggest certain situation or background but showed only human forms, which makes us difficult to understand his works during this period.

While children's paintings focus on contents rather than forms, Choi Woolga's paintings emphasize the forms. Thus, his paintings may well be differentiated from children's paintings. Such formative characteristics as discussed above determine his sense of formative aesthetics. The formative aesthetics concise like children's paintings and relying on the simple contour lines are very appealing. Of course, since his paintings show only the frames of forms with no hanger-on, they are persuasive visually. Such visual persuasion is very effective in making his messages understood correctly.

By 1990's, his paintings would shift from form-centered to color-centered tendency. In other words, he would depart from such color deployment strategies as pointillism and instead, would use the primary colors so that the color planes could dominate the canvas. Accordingly, the expression of his works at large was bright, colorful, intense and stimulative. He avoided mixed colors as much as possible and tended to accept the primary colors intact. Such a change was equated with his preference of the color plane effects. Thus, the forms would be more conspicuous than before. In a nutshell, the primitive wild nature would be exposed intact by the colors. The images of primary colors tend to respond directly to emotion. Colorful and bright primary colors function to open up the closed consciousness and emotion. In addition, the audience could experience an emotional catharsis. Such a catharsis may be an emotional response similar to our first impression with the nature.

Actually in 1990's, he would change his subject from figures to the daily episodes. As subjects and objects changed, the contents would change accordingly. In case the nature is used as subject, the objects would be diversified enough to enrich the contents. Likewise, the daily episodes would allow for more diverse objects and contents enriching the canvas. The forms of paintings still suggested primitive images or those of children's paintings. As the objects were diversified, the composition would be very gorgeous.

Here, he ignores a realistic concept of space in terms of not only formative interpretations but also arrangement and composition of objects. So, the resultant composition of canvas would be fancy free like a non-gravity world of another universe, being different from the realistic sense of space. So, there is not distinction between front/rear, left/right or upper/below. In other words, the audience could enjoy time and space of absolute freedom with no law of universal gravitation. His forms may well be comparable to primitive rock-inscribing paintings or cave wall paintings. Such a spatial setting suggests a pursuit of an transcendent world quite different from the human society enforcing ethics, moral and order on us. The transcendent world is not irrelevant to the primitive modus vivendi before the social relationships began to be complicated. His view of art confronting the world may have aimed at the primitive modus vivendi following the law of nature only. Didn't he expect that the primitive human emotion would be recovered through purity of the intense primary colors?

On the threshold of 2000's, Choi Woolga would attempt to replace the color planes with a pure drawing expression. He would use oil colors, acryl, pastel crayon or oil stick for his line drawings. Lines determine the forms or at other times, cross the boundary of the plane. By this time, lines were frequently integrated into objects, their forms or color images, not being separated from them. Namely, he applied the concept of drawing, and as a result, lines, planes or forms had their own independent modes of existence. After all, he would follow an integral concept of forms, which makes it insignificant to discern the modes of existence. Extremely concise line drawing, namely the concept of drawing similar to esquisse would dominate his painting images.

Here, he once introduced color planes partially or painted the canvas thick with black or white color, and before the color dried up, he drew the forms thereupon with oil stick or pastel crayon to reveal an intaglio canvas composition reminiscent of the lines drawn or inscribed on gray-blue porcelains. Such a form may be significant as a mechanism complementing the lightness of drawing. In other words, despite the visual purity and pleasure, the single line stroke may well look light. His line strokes similar to drawing have been supported by a consistent formal logic. Maybe, his line stroke is similar to the singular brush stroke for literati paintings. Anyway, his singular line stroke would be highlighted very conspicuously in his works during 2000's. Before the thick layer of color on the canvas dries up, he draws forms thereupon as if he were working out an intaglio. For the conditions of his canvas allowed only for a single line stroke each time.

Accordingly, the singular line stroke would be enlivened as a fresh image in his works during 2000's. In order to conform to such singular line stroke, every object and form should be contracted into simple line drawings. So, all forms would be compressed into simple and clear images to conform to the concept of signs, signatures or diagrams. Compression of the forms would necessarily result in some independent images interpreted according to such formal logic. Thus, his recent works could have a consistent formative pattern. In other words, they have come to have an independent formative aesthetics. All objects emerging in his paintings have their own compressed images, namely signs, signatures or diagrams. Since his recent paintings have their images as promised, these images would diverge or converge to allow for constructivism works.

The line drawings following the forms of objects are straightforward and audacious. They are neither obscure nor vague but clear, powerful and candid. Such line forms make us feel a visual pleasure. He need not bother to make his paintings look like primitive paintings. That his line drawings are speedy, pleasant and rhythmical proves that he has come to be skilled enough for his works. Now, he seems to have been relieved of painting labor. Some critics may feel that his works are too diagrammatic, but I feel that due to the perfection of the formal aesthetics, the entire impression of his works is bold and refined as well.

Now, he seems to have refined his sense of aesthetics or matured an aesthetic sense different from the natural images, while approaching near an urban emotion. Of course, his paintings still have the primitive attributes. Even in terms of the formal aesthetics, his paintings seem to have a formative order with no hanger-on. Yes, his recent works feature an urban refined taste, not losing the wild nature. Such characteristics can be found in his changed subjects and objects. Such evaluation can be supported by his subjects and contents found in the daily life.

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