It does not sound unfamiliar that paintings are based on plays. Everyone began to draw and enjoy paintings during childhood, having lot of fun drawing something. We painted not only on the white paper but also on ground, wall and every plane accessible. The void planes were the attractive arenas satisfying our sense of curiosity, imagination and instinct for play, and they were felt like playgrounds actually. In fact, the school playground was a ground for both play and drawing. Everybody may well share the memory of having drawn the lines along the contour of the shadow cast on the ground or having made the forms with footsteps or other traces. The play of making or inscribing some images, although obscure, relying on texture and touch of earth, might have been a primitive and vivid experience of fine art. Large and clear eyes and small hands were wandering amid the voids on wall and ground, which must be a beautiful memory. Most of the childhood is always spent so with wandering or roaming. Since the childhood is temporarily reserved before being controlled by rules, goals and forceful frameworks required by the society, the idle hands may be particularly free. Moreover, the pre-school children are not forced to learn about painting. However, such experiences and time would be lost and nullified when the children go to school, working hard to be admitted to higher education.
In Choi Woolga's paintings, we can feel the memory of free, soft and far-off primitive drawings before such loss. More specifically, his paintings harbor the yearning for such memory and the desire for keeping it. He would like to be a child. He wants to be an adult painter. His desire sounds quite contradictory on one hand, and comic and desperate on the other hand. Painters have to return to the days before they began to learn, if they have passed a certain period of learning. Their eyes should return to their original state when they faced the paintings for the first time, and their hands should also return to their original state grasping brushes and painting the colors for the first time. In a nutshell, painters should become the men who face the world for the first time. Only if painters should always keep such primitive eyes and mind distanced from conventional or established ones, they would be good painters. So, many painters would like to be children. However, it is very perplexed, hard and difficult to reach such stage or level. Our fine art community has witnessed various painters of strong personality: Jang Wookjin, Junggwang, Yang Dalseok, Choi Youngrim, etc. Lee Jung-seop's cigarette box silver foil paintings or postcard paintings and Byeon Jonghwa style paintings should not be overlooked, either. All of them succeeded in implementing children's painting elements into their world of painting. Even now, we can see many paintings yearning for such world of painting or reminding us of it. In this sense, it is perceived that the yearning for the paintings heart-beating not being affected by certain trends, fashion or discourses is very time-honored and eternal. Choi Woolga's paintings seem to be positioned in the same category.
In our fine art history, those artists who worked out the paintings like children's would join hands to launch a movement, which has been discussed as the paintings championing the primitivism or stimulating a sense of innocence. I remember that when urbanization, industrialization and progress of civilization were accelerated, such movement was started accordingly. It may have been a desire to return to such states deemed the original fine art as primitivism, simpleness, wildlife or innocence, or a yearning for a culture of anti-civilization and anti-mechanism. Looking back, the fine art history has always been dotted with the repeat marks due to actions and reactions between these two factors. Graffiti or new wall painting modes which emerged in the age of post-modernism may well be interpreted in the same context. The examples are Kaith Haring and Basquiat. Their paintings negated the conventional fine art or the fine art system centered about the galleries and strived to return the fine art to daily life continuously. Simultaneously, their gestures might aim to make the fine art breathe freely within the net of extreme pedantry and logic or the systems of commercialism or professionalism. Of course, they did not conceive that their paintings were most ordinary and instinctive, not aiming to collapse the boundary between fine art and non-fine-art.
Choi Woolga's paintings keep Haring' or Basquiat's traces tacitly. Or they seem to be influenced by the French Neo-configurative artists. Choi Woolga bring about all such traces and influences into his paintings to draw/write his own unique story paintings. His paintings are completed simultaneously with drawing and writing, while applying the painterly, scratch, intaglio/relief, letters/signs and images/symbols on an equal footing. Above all, his paintings confirm the base of the canvas which is painted thick to be playfully scratched, and at the same time, create some visual objects shaped by the voids thereof. The result is a contradictory situation that void becomes filled and vice versa. The traces revealed by peeling off the layers of colors would create drawings/lines. He plays scratching by stick or spit rather than brushing. And he seems to enjoy his own experiences secretly by using a pointed tool to peel off the skin of certain thickness and height. So, his paintings stimulate our tactile sense much. In short, he seems to enjoy a queer pleasure of peeling off the textured canvas sensuously. His pleasure seems to be derived from his memory of such plays during his childhood as drawing, carving and inscribing with small stone, chalk, pencil or other pointed tools.
Choi Woolga finishes the surface of canvas into a monochrome color layer of a certain thickness and then, decorate the surface with line drawings. In most cases, he makes a thin/low base plane/skin with the white color and fills the plane/skin with innumerable forms and lines. Except for some objects recognizable, the forms are full of short lines. The recognizable objects are those objects and animal forms located in the space of the daily life. The examples are fish bowl, puppy, flower, automobile, liquor bottle, clock, fruit, and the like. They form parts of his own residence or have themselves associated with the universal human life. While such forms are depicted and scratched with unreserved drawings, the diverse lines between them are the straight lines or the lines bordered on an aerodynamic or triangular shape. Some of them are reminiscent of antennas or electric signals. These forms and lines are similar to the cartoon-like images we had pleasure to draw during our childhood. Choi Woolga's paintings repeatedly show such special signs and lines of certain forms invented by himself, and he uses those signs and lines to produce ciphers and texts. Apparently, the images are overlapped with the indoor landscape, and thus, his paintings emerge as still, landscape or some abstract trajectory. Upon closing up, the images are placed somewhere between painting and cartoon as well as painting and scribble.
To reiterate, his paintings are positioned in a buffer zone between painting and low relief, while being tactile pictures and sort of wall paintings. They remind us of the traces or scribbles drawn inadvertently on the void wall or ground, or they are perceived as the traces of the most instinctive and primitive plays of filling a rectangle compactly. It is conceived that his desire of resembling child's hands and mind eternally young through plays and games or free imagination may have been melted down into his paintings. One of his challenges may be how to crystallize such thoughts, senses and hands without being obsessed with the fixed and stuffed myth of playfulness and purity of art.