Out of sight, still in mind
gThe wise traveller travels only in imagination.h - Somerset Maugham
Featuring a Japanese artist, Masako Yasuki and a Korean artist, Choi Yoonjeong, this exhibition presents the work of two artists from neighboring countries which hold rich history and tradition in landscape painting. Although they may be labeled as a landscape painter or a scenery painter, neither of them aims at reproducing beautiful sights on their canvases. Yasuki and Choi are, in their respective ways, more interested in how something we see changes through our endless reconstruction and reinterpretation in mind, like a process of fermentation.
Masako Yasuki has been consistently working on landscape painting for some time now. Reminding us somewhat of Claude Monetfs late paintings, especially the cathedral in Rouen or the pond with lotus, Yasukifs work is subtly beautiful but the objects in her painting - a tree, a plant, a road or a building - are barely discernible, and they have blurred contours which produce ambiguous forms.
Her work starts from her sketches and photographs of the place she has ever visited, and the place is always either a historical legacy or an unspectacular neighborhood. Sometimes she literally gcopiesh the land itself by placing a sheet of paper on the stone pavement or asphalt ground and rubbing it with charcoal. Then, she overlaps the resultant image or the gfrottage,h with the landscape on her canvas with thick layers of tempera and oil paint. This could be interpreted as an attempt of merging the view with memory, experience and knowledge related to the site in order to achieve a quite abstract vision.
Coming back to comparison with Monet, it is clear that Yasukifs work is not a product of close observation of the scene, as is the case with impressionistsf paintings (Monet focuses on how to capture and fix the colors and light on his canvas) but rather of her experience of trying to reconstruct and interpret and understand the meaning of the place. As if we are trying to capture an afterimage on the back of an eyelid, looking at her painting makes us aware that what we see in the world is unreliable and vulnerable enough to doubt its entity. We believe, quite wrongly, that we know and understand the world very well, but her blurred landscape leads us to realize another facet of the world, which is closer to its true feature but so elusive that we almost always fail to see it, with all our effort.
In contrast with Yasuki, Choi Yoonjeong often paints interior of a room. The room is scattered with mundane stuffs such as a sofa, a cloth hanger, a ventilation fan and a table lamp. There is, however, no sign of reality in the way the things are arranged together. It is too far from a realistic representation of an existing room.
At first glance, Choi seems to take the same approach as surrealists, but while surrealist paintings require greadingh of images and an extraordinary way in which the things are put together, Choifs work lacks such symbolism and a narrative or poetry. Her work seems quiet like a water-filled aquarium and there is no story to be told. Nothing happens, and there is no anticipation that anything will happen imminently. Choifs work seems like evading any certain interpretation.
In modern society, we are surrounded by a myriad of images and objects. And most of them appear to be unnecessary and insignificant. Choi collects and sifts such images and picks out some of them in order to use them as ingredients for her painting. So to speak, she piles up some recycled bricks to build up a room of her own. Her work, which may be called a painting version of Sarah Szefs installation, looks as if she were playing house but simultaneously evokes a strong sense of detachment. Choifs painting holds no fantasy; it is far from romantic. Instead, her cool and intense reexamination of the familiar landscapes originates her work.
In the age of flooding images when people can travel all around the world with ease both physically and virtually, it is becoming more and more difficult for us to find out what is grealh and what is not. Both Yasuki and Choi, though in different ways, try to depict the view filtered through a window of mind, and thanks to their sincere and painstaking effort, the painted scenery can be seen much more grealh than the world we behold.