Alteration of Energy Formed through Metaphor and Insight
Jin Hwi-Yeon / Art historian, Korea National University of Arts, School of Visual Art, Art-theory
1. Extension of Materials
The biggest characteristic of artist Rhee Jeong-Yeon is the composition of materials. The artist paints by covering hemp cloth that has been tightly pulled on canvas. Bark of poison ivy stripped off and extracted sap is collected to use them as the undercoating material of canvas. The dark red energy that oozes out subtilely when applied to cloth is displayed in harmony as if being one with hemp cloth even from the start. Lacquer varnishing technique was initially used for furniture or vessel and wood piece. Glutinous rice flower is mixed with fine red clay sifted out with filter and collected sap to apply it for background with hands instead of brush, on which various colors are placed. Dark color charcoal powder is applied, and white or gray color is expressed using stalactite or bone waste, volcanic ash and clam powder while steel or copper powder is used to express red color. Lacquer varnish powder is sprinkled on canvas, or gold, egg shell or nacre collected from abalone is applied.
All these materials that she use were not common materials in art. Actively embracing sap on canvas background is Rhee Jeong-Yeon’s advanced choice. The artist that uses materials collected from nature stated that she was inspired by the deep Korean sentiment displayed by materials with years of experience and refined tone. The pain of tree stripped off of its bark and charcoal and volcanic ashes transformed in heat and air for a long time are similar to the appearance of us that live our lives through endurance.
These very unique materials are materials that have been created on various layers of earth or that have grown for a long time with their roots in soil. Applying in layers on canvas bone wastes, volcanic ash, stalactite, clam powder, charcoal, sap of lacquer tree extracted from lives that have been created and formed on earth with the mix of water, fire, wind, air and time appears as having shifted sedimentation of solid matter and accumulation of time them on earth as if having shifted the earth. As if cultivating soil and enriching them into good substances, the artist waters on top of hemp cloth and pours fertilizer. On top of such soil, shapes grow as if lives and stacked neatly.
– Growth of Life
Her painting can be seen as a new environmental art in the context of containing affection towards every life of the world created and born, as well as focusing on organic relation between matters. It is so in the sense of understanding the ecology of nature, and actively reflecting the interest in the existence and change of object conceived in nature. What is also unique is not using artificial material or method. The canvas becomes a miniature of nature and an organism that has embraced life on which the artist paints living organisms that are like her alter ego. Bamboo is most representative among them. Bamboo is connected to the appearance of someone that has emptied himself to low position. Through the center that is empty, temperature inside the tree is rather high with high transmission of sound and ends up having straight and high height. What is also special is the speed of growth of soaring up over ground after enduring underground for a long time. It is when the center is empty, others?voices are well heard and communication becomes effective, thereby becoming more considerate to others. Such logic of the world is contained within the bamboo in the canvas of the artist that paints joints that have been stumped by slightly modifying them. In addition, figures such as circle, triangle and quadrangle and the major icons of Christianity, fish and cross, also appear that contain special stories for the artist.
All of the specific objects have been treated in metaphorical and connotative shapes instead of in the aspect of reproduction. Element that have been added with symbol have been prepared in texts that can be read by each audience. The artist that is experimental and defiant in the material and method that compose her work made efforts to capture invisible force and influence by granting meaning to every motif. Those that have been hidden or that operates secretly have been expressed through her typical flexible and large stroke.
2. Formative Pedigree and Characteristics of Painting
After majoring in Oriental Painting in university, Rhee Jeong-Yeon ended up painting Western painting and engraving through her overseas study in the US. In her early works, sense of volume and light & shade of ink are uninhibited with force in the stroke. It was weighty and strong to the point of even the canvas margin containing such energy. In her subsequent works that used Western media are filled with various lines and colors and visual elements are intensive and crowded as if conflict against one another.
Such form is analyzed also as surrealism but it is rather closer to abstract expression that is the representative modernism painting of the US. Atypical images that reminds of surrealism are shown at times and the movement of fluid lines appear as if implying multi-layered massaged. However, rhythmical energy is conveyed through intense colors and composition that fill entire canvas that is energetic on which brush mark is not hesitant, as if the action painting of abstract expressionism. During her overseas study years in New York, she expanded her media to lithography, mono print and acrylic paint, as well as oil painting, and she displayed the coexistence of the East and the West through various mixed materials such as ink stick, jangji, made and hanji. The form of Rhee Jeong-Yeon? works show experiments as diverse as her media.
– Unfixed Artist’s Experiment and Results
The artist is familiar with the long traditional brushstroke of the East. The feast of handwriting style brushstroke and comprehensive and multi-layers lines like straight lines is familiar to hands along with uninhibited alternation. Explosive display of the accumulation of such study in her canvas was found in the work created during her overseas study years. Upon returning from the US, the artist started to gradually show changes in the contents of painting as in her series of work since the mid 90s such as , , etc. Abstract form of conflicting shapes in the paintings found their shapes as they decreased or became simplified. Although the earth color is used as the background of canvas, lines are big and fluid and both color and form display somewhat variable, consolidated and vague shapes. In her subsequent series of work , unnecessary lines and colors became minimal while prominently showing concentration on the theme.
Around 2000, the artist once again introduces an interest subject matter, which is nacre. As she used both round nacre and flat nacre discovers the fact that nacre can bring another vitality to canvas. Nacre’s bright and multi-tone colors and hard texture appeared as the visualization of life surviving on the canvas of earth. As if crossing over between rough brush mark and tactual texture, organized shape and atypical lines and the medium and technique of the East and the West, the artist’s mixed composition of canvas invalidates the meaning of boundary.
Her works based on the strong force from Indian ink, calligraphy tradition of dashing off with one brushstroke, light & shade difference of Indian ink painting and purity of Western abstract painting are expressive yet restrained and simple yet intense. Rhee Jeong-Yeon’s work starts from one stroke of strong energy. That energy dominates space and revives lines and colors, but they collided or contradicted. However, her sight and capability of various media and techniques gradually changed her work from disorder to order and from mixture to integration and from struggle to harmony. In her work that crosses over boundary, we discover a process of change. Trans-form, trans-contents, trans-dimension and trans-quality are the pedigree of Rhee Jeong-Yeon’s painting. As contents and elements that were intermixed become organized slowly or find their places, the artist? worlds of experience become integrated as the canvas become condensed and clear.
3. Life’s Journeys and Thematic Consciousness
Rhee Jeong-Yeon proposes travel to her audience through her work. She guides them to something that goes beyond what is seen to share it with her. The artist is a faithful and passionate professor. During her long teaching profession, she has been mainly teaching drawing. Although the purpose of drawing is to precisely catch what is seen, its goal is also to train how that should be recomposed and displayed. The artist helps her students to not only catch shape and recognize color through eyes but also master the path of developing the technique of reproducing them on their own. Through such lesson, she focuses on the relationship between object and subject. The most important thing ultimately is the understanding on awareness as the subject of sense.
– Spirituality & Religionism
Rhee Jeong-Yeon’s works are very tightly related to her life. Her religious practice is the center that leads her life. Who has a life that is light in its weight? Through her journey of life that is not easy, the artist reveals times that have been accumulated humbly and consistently toward one aim, absolute God, the Lord. Boiling hot respiration becomes one stroke and solidly raised up prayer changes into hemp cloth that is tightly and fully attached to canvas. Nacre that has been added at times appear as the artist’s laughter and gratitude and virtue cast away to those around. Her attitude towards life is reverent yet warm and shows the sufficiency of embracing her surrounding. Although her canvas that has been decorated through great brushstroke and arduous labor while being faithful to her life is somewhat rough and seen as decorative at times from the subject matter, it is like her letter that is sent to the future by fully containing her past and present.
Each moment of Rhee Jeong-Yeon has been melted into her work like many lives in the world that are growing as countless operations work that are not precisely revealed or felt each moment. Her works speak to us. The artist’s wish for her life and passion, prayer clothed with artistic expression, love, life and energy to be conveyed to other as they face her work so that they may be of some meaning to other is fully contained.
The force to strip off hidden things, endless prayer and self-reflection to reach eternity, courtship toward invisible things, poem of gratitude on life are Rhee Jeong-Yeon? work. Through her lonely struggle of displaying concentration while restraining desire towards that place without rest even today, her love and in-depth insight are poured out from her work.
ソウル大學校美術大卒業(專攻:東洋畵). ソウル大學校大學院修了. プラット·インスティテュ一ト大學院卒業(專攻:西洋畵·版畵). コロンビア·師範大學博士課程修了(專攻:美術敎育). △個展回數38回=Steinberg Museum of Art at Hillwood(NewYork, U.S.A.),Palazzo Tagliaferro Museum(Andora, Italy),上野の森美術館(Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo,Japan) ect. △現在=SADI(samsung art and design institute)基礎學科正敎授. 米國 Kips Gallery 專屬作家.