A Landscape floating between the retina and the subject
Yu Geun-oh (Art Critic)
"The Universe (which others call the library) is composed of an indeﬁnite, perhaps inﬁnite number of hexagonal galleries."
( Jorge Luis Borges )
『The Library of Babel』
In Cho Wonjeong's painting, the other side of the canvas may be either the land horizon or the sea horizon, perhaps this world or nirvana, but nonetheless,
is considered somewhere very close. That is the term made because it is familiar, but there are no features that can be defined as something. Usually, art
history refers to this type of painting as lyrical abstracts. The artist painted something passionately. It can be the artist's inner side, nature, or some
phenomenon. So it's not wrong for the viewer to find something specific on the canvas. The meaning and interpretation of what appears on the canvas are entirely
open to the viewer. Furthermore, this is because not only can there be no way to prevent Pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon in which each viewer extracts a
certain type from a subject that has no connection to each other, but it can also have a morphology and color that are not so familiar to the canvas. Some may
feel the surface of a lake and dry water grass from the background of the pale green and brown lines, and some may feel the fresh air of dawn on a canvas
consisting of the blueish background and a few lines. Cho's painting starts with a question about how abstracts are reproduced in art (here, reproduction
functions in various ways). Cho’s work does not depict the subject itself, but depicts a floating image that doesn’t settle between the retina and the subject.
This analysis is a very conceptual reasoning, but it is intended to capture any image floating in space, suggesting the potential pattern of the subject, the
variability, and, more importantly, visual and perceptual skepticism about the existing entity.
Looking at Cho's latest work from a point of view of reproduction, it is also true that the lack of concrete features sometimes makes one wonder if the artist
even has any interest in a particular subject. Of course, Cho has been painting certain objects or landscapes since the early days as an artist: for example,
landscapes or flowers such as a market alley, forsythia, and sunflowers. Perhaps, the abstraction in Cho's work does not emerged all of a sudden, but is backed
up by the preliminary work in the previous pieces to a considerable extent. The artist refrained from saying what she wanted to say, recorded the impression she
received from the subject, and has only depicted the quintessence. However, it is not easy to tell what the current interpretation means to the viewer. Perhaps
after Descartes, who called out, "To be a rational being, distrust your senses," the artist might have realized that realism is a form in which one only realizes
uncertainty in the subject while trying to define it rationally and accurately. But the real intention of aesthetic codes to declare an end to something,
including abstraction, is the methodology of restoring and extending the endangered forms. In any case, the point Cho is aiming for is somewhere between the
main agent and the subject. Just as artists often share confidence and skepticism in their works, Cho, too, is not focusing on either the main agent or the
subject perhaps because it is not clear at the moment (it can also be seen that confidence and skepticism have recently become the issue of new work that have
been erased and added). In a way, objects and images may be separate issues in painting, but the artist does not deny that images are dependent and indicative
on the subject that produced them. As her painting suggests, she paints a phenomenon that is entirely correlated with the image of the subject. Thus, an image
is recognized as a medium between the subject and the retina, and the uncertainty and obscurity it possesses are becoming the de facto subject of the painting.
Cho's painting thus transcends the realm of semi-abstraction or semi-conception, where so-called conception and abstraction are mixed although it maintains a
delicate rivalry between the main agent and the subject. Cho's work is also seen as a case of expanding the recognition area of images that only stay in a
fixed instant capture of the subject through the dismantling of the realistic forms.
If so, the images in Cho's painting, although abstract, are paradoxically a more realistic representation of the reality of the phenomenon at the same time.
If the realist painters sought constant exploration in search of clarity of things, Cho rather seeks to find a world of images accumulated in obscurity. This
suggests that the intention to avoid attitudes to objects and to the world that have been based on a cognitive analysis to date was being preceded by a desire
to reconsider the reproduction of an image world, such as relative analogy. The term “reproduction” feels deeply unfamiliar in abstraction, unlike in realism.
Nevertheless, Cho reproduces abstraction. That it is expressed as reproduction indicates a change in the fixed perception system of the reproduction painting
although it is also because the origin of the sensation is due in part to the natural landscape. As mentioned, it is not strange for the lyrical senses revealed
in Cho's work to contain certain form images. For this reason, whether it is this or that side of the form means nothing to Cho. She increasingly redoubles the
ambiguity in her recent work, which paid attention to the colorful sensation that touches the skin vividly. Besides, it is very impulsive and expressive. Given
this aspect, it is unlikely that we would err if we related her work to abstract expressionism. If previous abstraction or abstract expressionism were not quests
for any subjects, but rather reflected questions about the reasons of the main agent painting, Cho's painting in this referent seems to occupy a different position.
That does not mean that the artist focuses on the material properties of the medium though. It is concerned with the heavy breathing of expressionism. Such breathing,
or energy, is not intended to adequately portray the nature collected in the artist's daily life, but rather to express how to draw it out of the body with her
own media senses.
It seems to be taking issue with time of the present rather than the space in painting. How can you define the present? Can you really perceive it? Is it just
one of those moments of transition from the past to the future that you can't detect? It is an exquisite combination of peculiar boundaries of eternity and
moments as it will always exist throughout the course of time. After all, the subject the artist encountered was not a single point in time, but the object/place
that each time existed. Therefore, it is a belief that there is no absolute form that is solidified. In a way, as in any painting, even if the artist does not
insist, it is the psychological landscape created when self-generated form and external form are merged. Here an “indefinite number, or perhaps an infinite number”
of landscapes will be created as much as the number of the viewers. At this point, what she paints needs not be flowers, trees, water, or forests. The canvas is
simply a place where images are shown to convey meaning borrowing forms and to express the images of reasoning through the body. Furthermore, she says that she
borrows Merleau-Ponty’s physical phenomenology system, which refers to a "human as a body" to replace the rational entity of the modern era, and instantly puts
the intrinsic presentness of the impression she remembered as a "body" on the canvas. The impression was not extracted from the subject by the artist, but
provided by the subject. Thus, the image becomes blurred. This is because the diverse and unfamiliar sensory experiences that the subject conveys now cannot be
described as an objective proposition or portrayed as a completely subjective impression.
The vague image originated from a wave of passion rising from beneath the body. Raging drawing and coloring that seems to try to grasp the sensory present is no
other than, as the artist himself confessed, the artist's struggle to “put the true feelings and emotions of the moment that have just been created on the canvas
meticulously.” But it's not a struggle of pain, but a "play of painting” or "performance of amusement" that encounters the unknown world. The artist called it an
interesting communication, but it is more like a correspondence. It is an interlocking relationship in which when the subject provides something, the artist
responds to it, and conversely, when the artist is in a sad mood, the subject sheds tears. The artist self-analyzes that “rather than giving form to the subject
as it is, she experiences natural gestures and excitement spring up when moving the brush as the body and mind lead in pursuit of the inspiration that nature
conveys, and it is sometimes an inversed relationship.” For example, it is not about placing nature in the artist's own context of work, but rather it is close
to listening to what the subject says. Also, "seeing" is the act of recognizing things through the retina in the form and color of things that light transmits.
The artist not only sees that things she perceives may not be the same as what others perceive, but also that there may be differences depending on her own
emotional state. For example, the yellow of the bright forsythia is a yellow ribbon waiting for the children of the Sewol ferry to return, and the light pink
of the colorful cherry blossom on a spring day may appear to be the color of sadness and frustration at the same time. Is there anything in the world that stays
always the same?! Can you clearly define what it really is?! Some say, “Don't stay in any truth. Do not build a house there, considering it only as a tent for a
summer night.” This is said with the relativity and liquidity of truth in mind.
In addition, the term “an absolute or objective image” is not appropriate because painting itself is an act of separating a situation from a certain time and
space, namely an act of making a sensory choice, which inevitably requires the artist's artificial intervention, or "excluding." Therefore, the images Cho has
painted are not something concrete, but something that looks like a thing or not, or something that reflects the artist's inner self. In her recent works, Cho's
inner gaze largely maintains a microcosmic view. The sudden physical appearance of the lines running through the body along with the colors does not clearly reveal
any specificity or physical presence. The images formed by these lines and colors are a way of keeping the viewer's focus in the gray area of the visible and
non-visual. Cho's painting induces the viewers to extend the microscopic perspective to recognize different macroscopic shapes. Looking close from the viewer's
point of view, the subject's ambiguity may become a fantasy. And the speed and elegant colors that make you sense the artist’s breathing play the role of
amplifying this fantasy. Furthermore, the psychological fantasy, accompanied by ambiguity, reveals a different level of aesthetic sensibility from the existing
paintings. What Cho's work suggests to the viewer is that it discovers the hidden forms of the landscape and in the process re-recognizes the distance between
the subjects, in other words the fact that there is a time/visual deviation in perceiving the subject. It is meaningful that the changed image of nature, which
is subject to silence (because the language of plants and humans is different), has been recorded as "nature (it is of itself)" beyond the image appealing to
the fitness of the shape through a long period of deep observation and memory. After all, the basic prerequisites for dealing with nature are similar to the
reproductive paintings of the past, but one difference is that the latest work style of the artist captures an intuitive image of the aesthetic order that
combines nature with her inner side based on inspiration from abstract indicators contained in the landscape. “Intuitive” here refers to the fusion of chance
and inevitability. In other words, her work is not based on “full impassivity” or “full intention.” Therefore, an art work should be open to coincidences, but
they require a thin set of necessary links that do not let them scatter. Although her work may seem vague, the reason why it stimulates our view is that her
paintings, which are expressed with the artist's own inner view, shows landscapes adapted by the artist and nature, and creates a scene that exudes a deep
sense of artistic scent by deflecting the boundaries of the dichotomous aesthetic form very effectively. This is now the time and space of returning to
self/nature beyond the others of nature, not something of someone specific. To prove the lack of distinction, the brush was so busy running on the canvas
that it was driven by nature. That's why the yellow, red, blue, green, and black forms bloom again as flowers, trees, land, mudflat, and water plants even
after they are all volatilizing on the canvas.