Feast of Lines and Rhythm of Freedom - Bummo Youn [art critic]
Wildly dancing lines, a feast of lines, a trace of movement made in a barely conscious world, absolute freedom, and an inner rhythm created by the lines. These are the features of Woolga Choi's recent work.
I can feel a kind of vibration from Choi's recent work. Straight lines usually give us sharp and stiff feelings but Choi's lines create different feelings from usual straight lines due to a certain degree of variation the artist organizes. Choi places a circle which suddenly appears to be among the lines or places rectangular planes on the both edges of a canvas. The rectangular planes seem to act as a regulator to control the ultimate freedom created by the lines. They act as a bank or shield to stop an overflow from the centre. The contrast between the lines and rectangles adds some weight to the entire painting.
Choi had previously used various primary colors, but recently makes an effort to put some control on the choice of the colors and on the treatment of the surface of the paintings. Even though continuous lines, which appear to be unconsciously scribbled, are freely filling a canvas, there can be a certain balance found and inner rhythm that the free lines create. The lines give the audience a similar impression to that of sharp metallic sounds of contemporary music. At the same time, they also lead us to a soft mood. This is because Choi's work is based on primitivism and the mutual balance among images is considered important.
The theme of Choi's recent work can be called "enjoyment of freedom". They are the results of his attitude to pursue a purely primitive world. Choi intended to work blank minded as if he had the same level of intelligence as that of a Paleolithic man. Choi also intended to express the natural state without any frills. One of his favorite words is probably "primitive". It seems that Choi attempts to express primitive soul in his art as primitive men did in their cave paintings. From a certain angle, Choi's work looks like unconscious scribbles. Perhaps, it is expression of the world interpreted through the eyes of children, which is the world without any prejudice or judgment. This effect might be consistent with the attitude of Jean Dubuffet.
It took Choi a long time and lots of experiences to reach the recent artistic world. He recently came home after about five years of an exploration around the world. As a result, he attained a formative method based on new materials and techniques. Contrasted with his previous tendency of painting bright primary colors on a flat screen, he recently has shown a more controlled, simplified art. By doing so, he became able to balance between his existing themes and a newly achieved methodology to express a primitive world. Choi is not fond of a shallow effect of acrylic paints and, therefore, applied a thick layer of paint to the surface in order to create a thick monochromic texture. Choi treated the background as a single space and created images by scratching the background. The effect of a feast of lines was achieved through this process and crayon chalks were used to create small dots as objects.
Another feature of Choi's recent work is an attempt to create a three dimensional painting by giving 5 to 15 cm thickness to the side of the frame. The thick side of the painting was attempted to break an imperative idea created by a traditional framing. The thick side of painting guides audience's eyes naturally from the front to the side, so that they can sense the infinity of the painting. The natural, continuous eye movement from the front to the side results in the expansion of the view. Though the work on the side of the painting using the simplicity feature of lines, Choi attempted to endow the painting with tension and relax.
Another feature of Choi's oil painting is the usage of a generous amount of oil paints. Oil paints take longer than twenty days generally and longer than one month in the winter time to dry properly. Choi learned a fast way to dry oil paint. As Choi applies a thick layer of oil paint, the discovery of short drying process came to play a critical role in his performance and productivity of work.Why Choi paints and what he pursues through his work is well explained by the following paragraphs quoted from an interview conducted in 1991.
"In my early twenties, I worked on realistic paintings. In my late twenties and early thirties, I was suffering from financial difficulty and attempted to express the life and art of socially ignored and poor people. After my thirties, I tried to express the life and thoughts about nature and people that exist in pure nature which is completely separated from civilization. However, criticism about the theme occurred in my mind again because we, human beings, cannot live ignoring the development of civilization and also cannot help using it. There are so many problems where nature and civilization meet. Whether it is intellectual or materialistic, if we do not try to balance civilization with sounds, shapes and movement of nature, both nature and human being will go ill. Then, how can I express the civilization in order to make it look like and feel like nature. This is my current important assignment which will combine my artistic ideas. At the same time, however, I firmly!
believe that painting itself should reflect the contemporary worldwide tendency. It is not best to paint only truly on one's own, ignoring the surroundings. Painting should be creative enough to lead, and reflect the twenty first century's art through its contemporary composition, space, colors, lines, and overall image."
The quotation above is somewhat long but shows clearly the inner world and core intention of the artist. Choi focuses on nature, and the natural appearance is the basis of the artistic world he pursues. Nevertheless, Choi does not ignore the surrounding world and also includes fundamental factors of the fine arts into his creation. Primitiveness still exists in the mind of people who live the highly civilized world, as if a sound of the soul. From the recent work of Choi, we can hear the sound of freedom. From his recent work, we can also hear a primitive sound. The sound might be the primitive sound heard in the middle of a civilized city. From this primitive sound, we can find freedom and primitive purity. Choi will be accepted even if he was clumsily spoken. Choi will be welcome even if he hesitated and stuttered in the middle of a busy city street, because the sound of his clumsy pronunciation might reflect the other side of the face of the people who live in the busy !