Choi Woolga's Paintings - Infant and Epic Painting Diary - Kho, Chung-Hwan art critic

In his book titled "A Theory on Aesthetic Education," the German aesthete Schiller divides the human nature into reasonable and emotional impulses, and he argues that a third impulse or play impulse mediates these two impulses to lead men to perfect personalities. While reasonable and emotional impulses aim at certain goals, play impulse is oriented toward the purest and most innocent forms. Thus, the author finds in such a play impulse the power of engine of art as well as the ground for aesthetics. According to his argument, play impulse is a moment of life or existence enabling a perfect personality as well as a moment of art.

In a pure sense of the word, play and pastime have no decisive rules unlike the games. Although there seem to be some rules, they are arbitrary and voluntary, not controlling the pure enjoyment and pleasure through play and pastime. Like the forms of art, the rules are pushed up to the outside by players' some internal need for a better play. So, they may well be nothing more than the moment which can be modified, complemented, abolished or corrected anytime. Play and purity go hand in hand in such a way. And superficially at least, the logic, namely the equality of play and purity is nearest children's scribbles. Usually, the scribbles expressing what they see or imagine as minimal lines simply contain the essence of objects (for example, structures) and even subject's instant and sometimes, continual emotion therein. The rock-inscribing paintings or the cave wall paintings at the dawn of human civilization or during the Paleolithic age were the prototypes of such scribbled paintings (those produced at the dawn of one's life), which would lead to the paintings featuring a strong drawing tendency in our contemporary fine art.

At a glance, we can see that Choi Woolga' paintings are on the same line as extended from with such Paleolithic rock-inscribed paintings, children's scribbles and those paintings showing a strong drawing tendency. And his paintings are more or less affected by or akin to various tendencies of fine art: such French free configurative artists as Jean Dubuffet, Pierre Alechinsky and such American graffiti artists as Keith Haring and Jean Mitchell Basquiat. Within the scope of such influence and affinity, Choi Woolga seems to pursue his own unique painting style.

Choi Woolga pastes his canvas thick with the colors, mostly the white color. And no sooner the pasted layer or color has dried up than he performs drawing using a pointed tool on the canvas. Although the layer is not much thick, the resultant painting would resemble rock-inscribing painting or low relief. And he also uses other pigments, crayon or pastel for painting. In most cases, he demonstrates footloose and fancy free drawings or lines not reigned by any form. From these series of paintings, we can confirm that although they are in certain forms, they have various characteristics of children's scribbling paintings. For example, such grammars required of the descriptive paintings as perspective or value are broken up, and as a result, we can find in his paintings a tendency of planar painting at a glance. Various painting elements, such daily objects as clock, flower vase and piano, such animals as dog, such traffic vehicles as train, and so on. All these objects seemingly not related with each other co-exist on his canvas imperturbably. The boundary between daily and common-sense contexts has collapsed, and in addition, even a daydreamy vision derived from imagination does not hesitate to intervene. The fancy dreams rising up before the canvas (for example, recollection about the past journeys) and the objects visible are mixed into one. Further, various elements emerging in the painting are not distinguished from each other in terms of order, superiority or weight. The objects neither related with each other nor distinguished or different from each other in terms of their intensity or weight seem to float over the plane as if they were swimming in a non-gravity space of vacuum state. The artist seems to make us envision Laotzu's statement that as the human misery is attributable to knowledge which in turn is attributable to distinction, we could recover our happiness only if we could withdraw from (overcome) the distinction, or Foucault's insight that every distinction is arbitrary and out of one's volition, or Lacan's conception about infant's self-sufficing stage of non-distinction before his development from the imaginary to the symbolic (a stage of discernment and distinction by agency of symbols and language). Of course, it may be more or less unreasonable to interpret Choi Woolga's paintings as a logical conclusion from a serious self-introspection in line with such humanity science theories. Anyway, it is apparent that the artist sympathizes with such theories in an unconscious stratum, and furthermore, that such a sympathy is supported by his innocent vision like children's (or desire for destruction of forms?).

The numerous lines crossing the canvas and the objects hinted by the lines combined serve to highlight the two-dimensionality of his paintings, while extending even outside of the plane. Namely, his canvas is felt like being cut out rather than completed, or it is felt like a part rather than a whole. His paintings expanding even outside infinitely or the impression of having torn off a part of reality reminds us of Baroque paintings. (While Renaissance fine art was self-sufficing and completed, Baroque fine art was based on expanded forms.) On top of all these, the artist's paintings expand even to the frame of the canvas. The canvas itself is self-sufficing for itself rather than a background for an image. (For example, the canvas itself is seen as a form of object.) He realizes an ambiguous meaning by demolishing the boundary for the conventional frame (expanding it outside the painting unreservedly) to emphasize it (admitting the unique properties of canvas or the limited frame).

Sometimes, the artist arranges a certain formative mechanism to control the canvas hinting the unreserved expansion outside the painting. The example is the color plane embracing the whole edges of the canvas or parts of them in his recent works. He tunes his canvas by contrasting the color plane (static mechanism or element) introduced partially with the drawings penetrating the paintings or the fancy free lines (dynamic mechanism or element).

Choi Woolga's paintings have the themes dictating or hinting play and daydream in many cases. And the themes are the core concepts supporting his paintings. Play avoids either artificial form or canvas composition as much as possible, and instead, reflects artist's will to pursue a painting detonated spontaneously by an internal moment or inevitability. And the resultant paintings are footloose and fancy free drawings rather than children's paintings per se. The objects emerging on the canvas are not related with each other in the context of daily life uses or common sense, but they get along well by agency of artist's imagination, revealing a innocent world of no distinction. Another core concept or daydream which supports artist's paintings implies a vision that the boundary between daily life and ideal has been demolished for cross-trespass between logic and its leap.

Through such a leap or vision, the artist unfolds a sort of infant and epic painting diary, hinting a fairy tale for adults, namely an unending story not interrupted. And through the story, he urges us to retrospect on what we have been deprived of, what we have lost and what we could not recover, inducing us to be immersed in the nostalgia for the innocent and naive days.