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Conditional Planes 2019

최종 수정일: 5월 31일

Most people create texts mainly through the methods of reading and writing. Choi Myoung Young, however, uses the origins of language, which are common among all civilization, as his method of communication. He seeks a language that is not subordinate to a particular tribe or nation, but traverses diverse cultures and territories. For example, he conveys the intimate and personal stories of human beings e.g. the past and future stories of individuals or communities, and myths, which are hardly visible or recordable, thereby reviving the ‘language of the body.’ This practice has not been a natural pursuit of the visual arts. Nevertheless, employing this method – creating a visual outcome through the language of limited visibility – has resulted in a richer outcome that no one had expected. It introduced an extraordinary narrative to contemporary art by bearing witness to the secretive aspects of human beings and revealing them along with pre-historic stories. Choi opened a new world of decoding, a form of communication that is much more difficult than conventional methods – sending/ receiving messages or interpreting an inscription of an epitaph – and, as a result, changed the way we look at the world. He acknowledges the power of letters as a medium of language. In his work, however, he presents a ‘bodily dedication through his skilled strokes with the notion that the making of art is a process of self-mortification that carries one into a deep religious state. It is almost similar to the practice of Buddhist monks of old who would reach this state by writing every word from the Buddhist scripture by hand.


Choi realized the value of knowledge obtained through arduous investigations and archiving, and headed toward the origin of language systems. Unexpectedly, his research led to an exploration of bodily language that few people continue to use and revived its value, an endeavor that ultimately helped him to access the deeper essence of human beings. Through his work, Choi shares the characteristics of the original language of human beings. His language-based work methods provide a way of revealing and preserving human memories. Such work experiences enabled him to enter deeper into the innermost depths of human beings and weave each individual’s disparate stories. Basing his methods on a consistent linguistic logic creates a bigger body of text consisting of diverse origins – it also establishes a way to receive different stories as they are, while respecting the distinct perspectives and contexts of their provenance. In practice, he writes down the text using his body or hands, which is a process that aspires to emulate the origin of the bodily language and forge its own unique characteristics. He openly receives rough dialectics and even contradictory stories to develop a better understanding of conventional languages and create a space where people can interpret them in their own ways and converse about those languages/stories. Unlike ordinary lettering systems, the letters in Choi’s work are not divided into different sounds; rather, he constantly overlaps different concepts and notions of various matters until, ironically or paradoxically, it finally becomes a simple entity. Without a specific statement, his work only presents the ways in which he receives and holds different [con]texts. The [con]texts are linked to each other simply, briefly, and loosely, and the process behind his work unfolds like a regular spell until it expels a certain sense of fear. By doing so, Choi presents his unfettered way of thinking – raising questions on anything he is curious about – and provides the audience with a new way of thinking about the concepts and notions of various matters.


His method is a conversation with the canvas by means of sound or breath, like a silent shadow, and an interaction between the two elements. As time goes by, the conversation creates a certain form and imposes an identity and clear message upon the work. By salvaging diverse and specific stories of human beings from the ocean, he arranges and accumulates them in his own creative way. In reverse, his work resonates through all of those life stories. On one hand, it attracts our attention to the ordinary canvas – the material; on the other hand, the artist turns it into a special, unique matter and then introduces us to it. In this way, the work makes the canvas a space of complete silence, while presenting it as a potential space for encounters between material things and their concepts.


In Choi’s work, the material medium and the work processes equally function as the constituents of art. The structure and proportion are also reminiscent of the relationship between the material and the aesthetic concept or the artistic intention. Even that intention, deprived of its own meaning, provides a similar sensitivity only. The artist does not explain the reason why he carries out his work in this way, nor does he clarify its functions. Inversely, the vague sensory reminiscences function as a device that emphasizes his intention. The artist’s intentions (or the origins of the intentions) are less specific than the real subjects are; however, in relation to the memories embedded within themselves, they become complex references, and play the role of an apparatus that intensifies psychological and emotional depths within the frame of his art. It may be because these processes remind us of an origin embedded in our pasts, and provide us with the continuity that somehow consoles our human lives. As the candle shaped electric light reminds us of the memory of light – the first experience of light that we had during our childhood – Choi constantly explores the origins of the vague memories of his past and systemizes them. These processes enable him to render the vocabularies of contemporary social phenomena, which, again, make new origins based on aesthetic desire. These words remain in our mind, ready to emerge whenever it is necessary. Sometimes, we can [re-]use them in very specific situations in a direct way, too.


Choi closely observes the parts of the origins, circumstances or phenomena, and captures and re-organizes them to create a more complicated tapestry of meanings. The origins are fluid by nature, and thus, they have diverse sub-categories. The observed elements, then, clash with various aesthetic forms and mass culture. In so doing, regardless of the artist’s intention, they create a structure bereft of meaning, or an integration of fragmented materials that render another form of intensive effects. We cannot specify what they are or where they were/are/will be – whether they are manifestations of an unspecified past or a future yet to be exposed – so they seem invisible, ungraspable, and, therefore, meaningless. Through subtle arrangements, Choi devotes himself to imposing the present-ness upon the conceptual origins, and to throwing away what he has gained thus far constantly. He does not focus on specific incidents or subjects, but essentially returns to the most appropriate status of all by re-investigating and purifying core elements of any given matter and reconstructing them on his canvas. As the origins that he seeks always change and diverse forms of origins emerge, they are re-made and (as an empty image) transform themselves from one form to another. From the functional point of view, they are merely simple forms; however, as they also exist invisibly and psychologically, we can contend that they are an integration of functions of diverse materials.


While respecting diverse aspects of individual origins, Choi incorporates certain clues to his interrogations of those origins into the present time. It is an attempt to redefine the fifty odd years of his own memories as one origin. He tries to pave the way for a clear understanding of the diverse aspects of all the concerns. By making his work a natural space for the documentation of the most intimate and personal emotions, anxieties, and delights of everyday life, he reduces it into its fundamental elements, and presents it as ‘Conditional Planes’. His process begets an anthropomorphous form – in this sense, it could be a genetic program that operates deep within our minds. When he encounters a certain subject and attempts to maximize its potential to that of a lifeform, he emphasizes its useful/positive functions and selectively uses all of the human senses. Relying on reminiscences of his past, he composes his work with emotions that may instinctively convey the details of the medium – soft and tactile sensations, coldness, and the warmth of sunshine etc. – and with subtle colors that remind us of certain images. He does not represent these matters in a specific form; however, his compositions are closely associated with omnipresent matters (e.g. air) and everyday life (e.g. cooking), and his emotions emerge as a response to them. His artworks take shape based on his understanding of the ways in which everyday things and their characteristics function.


Choi’s memories seem to be related to certain deficiencies. After a long period, they change into signs – whatever materials they are, they transform into matters that resonate their moment in time. Moreover, Choi uses the fragmented vestiges as a metaphor that functions as deep insight into his nature. Therefore, his works do not give any kind of direct visual impression; however, the canvas reveals the intricacy of his style, which presents ordinary materials within an extraordinary context in a highly contracted way, through which the imagination may also roam free. The images that come to mind may not be those of tangible matters but those of our expectations or idealized and aestheticized dreams about life. Subtle details that are hardly noticeable in the picture plane rebuff typical painterly responses; instead, they propose that it is possible to erase dark memories by using white, red, blue, and black paint. At that very moment, the process of erasure becomes tangible. Upon this framework, we cannot help re-setting our preconceptions about visual matters. In addition, the ‘simplicity’ of ‘the emptiness’ of the repetitive, modular working process strikes a chord within us. Accordingly, it seems that Choi intentionally selected his work methods, i.e. the vague lines of his picture plane and the attitude of self-mortification – he has worked on these methods every day of his life. Anyhow, his work, like a sort of emotional possession, gives solace to the soul. Choi has been invested in such penance-like, repetitive work because he is more interested in looking for his own memories and uncovering the voices of everyday life than in creating a specific image or form. His inclination toward self-mortification as a means to represent his everyday life in his pictures through bodily training adds more vitality to his layered paintings. It creates the ‘simplicity and uniqueness’ that are possible only when he completely excludes additional decorative elements and inserts his bodily energy into the picture.


Choi’s work is not based on extravagant forms, meticulous skills, or expensive materials; rather, it is based on his self-mortification or persistent efforts and sacrifice, which are rare. Without the latter, his artistic language disappears. In other words, his work revolves around the process of seeking alternative perspectives within daily life, which looks the same every day. The value, intention, and visual outcome of his work, sometimes beget unexpected contradictions, though insignificant. These contradictions, again, make his work all the more remarkable, and such a result necessitates an intensity from the works’ modest yet deviating characteristics, which are different from cookie-cutter working processes. Mental focus is the undeniable element in his work, and the value of his work lies in its process of orchestrating simplicity rather than complexity. The former does not allow for any error, and thus, it requires the artist’s firm determination to resist the temptation to make the work special, which is a difficult and even harsh process for the artist. During the encounter between the canvas and the paint, the artist demonstrates wisdom in knowing how to organize the paints’ characteristics as the brush spreads them across the canvas; his act of making a stroke, almost insignificant between the canvas and the paint, leaves a gap between the act itself and the picture plane. It looks very easy. In reality, however, it is a very difficult process. It looks aesthetically elegant, but it requires a great deal of effort before rendering it complete, which is comparable to the process of self-mortification. It is akin to imposing a certain character upon a space, just like the creation of a new space without guidelines. Nevertheless, he does not flaunt any element of the picture, as even the execution of any of its constituents mean nothing to his work. Instead, he maintains a quiet and balanced state of mind and presents such a modest expression. All the elements of his work are closely related to visual and tactile signs, but the completed image does not expose any of these qualities; rather, his work only provides us with a single form that is perfectly apt for a certain time and place in a highly modest way, a lonely method. In his work, the art is not a method for the purpose, but the purpose itself – the most crucial and essential purpose of the work, which is not related to conveying an image to the viewer.


Choi’s bodily movement upon the canvas is one of the many elements of his work. However, the ambiguity of this act blurs the borderline, so it does not draw the audience’s attention. In this way, his work maintains the tension that makes his ‘attitude’ more significant than its imagery or decoration. That is, the artist has chosen the most intimate, personal, and intensive method as his way of looking at the world. By excluding any multiple messages, he limits his work to certain colors and textures. In so doing, his work obtains inclusiveness through which it receives and digests any external changes. It focuses on the origins of matters, without the temptation of the torrential flow of media or the replica of images found in the media. He concentrates on origins, the changing phenomena that origins create, and the forces that create such changes along with the processes of art-making.


Choi’s work looks at the world from a position that never stays in its initial stance. At the same time, it naturally reflects diverse phenomena that take place in varied circulation processes. In other words, his work oscillates between ‘modesty and floridness,’ leading us from colorfulness to monochromatism, from past memories to the future. All his working processes from the selection of medium and mixture of colors, to the layering of elements embarrass us. Despite all these complications, we can understand what happens in his pictures because his work adheres to the method of reduction – a reduction toward the origins. His work demonstrates a wide understanding of and attention toward issues that require conceptual approaches rather than obvious imageries. It also has the essence of art, a technique that can create a unique language by using a medium that has no particular meaning. Choi provides us with something beyond utility by means of such ordinary materials. This is possible because his arduous and self-mortifying working processes maintain and apply the characteristics of the materials as they are. The essence of his work is the context and the process of art-making.


Choi’s work Conditional Planes is nothing but the production of a moment of processes intended to become or create a creative language of matters. It tells the stories of ‘the beauty of processes into which forms melt’ by means of infinite space and magnetic forces that draw our attention.


Kim Yongdae


As the senior curator of The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art from 1987 to 2003, Kim Yongdae has directed the ‘Contemporary Art Exhibition based on Korean Aesthetics.’ He has also served as the director of the Busan Museum of Art from 2004 to 2006 and as the first director of the Daegu Museum of Art from 2010 to 2012. As of recent, he has been independently curating exhibitions on the subject of ‘the encounter between the past and future.’

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