The formative purity praising the creative power of the Creator
(Shin Hang-Seop/Art Critic)
Painting is the function and technique of hands. However, making a different form from a visible object, in other words, omitting, simplifying, deforming and distorting a form is the domain of creation. There is a fun in reproducing the reality as it is; however, there is bigger joy in a creative activity making a new form, which did not exist before. Pursuing a new thing gives more joy because it is pioneering an unprecedented road. Creating something new is such an exciting job.
Recently, Rhee Jeong-yoen is attracting attraction by her series of work on the thesis of ‘new genesis’ This ‘new genesis’ is different from the meaning of making the world for the first time, in other words, the dawn of world in the doctrine of creation. The ‘new genesis’ of Rhee Jeong-yoen means the material purity, when an object has been made for the first time, or, at the time of its creation. It means that she believes that closer to the original pure form of when the Creator had made this world is ideal. A pure form means a formative novelty; however, it is closer to the meaning of expressive purity which is pursued by Rhee Jeong-yoen.
Like the Creator kneaded soil by hand when making the forms of objects in the world, Rhee Jeong-yoen also believes that the work method using hand is ideal. Therefore, all her works are done at the fingertip of her. The ? ‘new genesis’ means this work method, which imitates the creative power of the Creator. Rhee Jeong-yoen does not use any painting tool such as a brush or a knife. She does the expression she wants only by hands without using any tool. It is something like a working method in handicraft and it may be the most effective method in getting an expressive purity.
Using hand is a choice to keep the physical characteristic of the material itself. Working by hand also means the directness of expression. In other words, using finger tip is the last step of exercising physical force and it is the exit which directly transmits her aesthetic sense or consciousness without filtering. When the painting tools like a brush or knife are indirect expression method, expression by fingertip is direct expression method.
It is possible to know from it that a foundation for expressive purity is provided by securing the series of exit such as direct transmittal of aesthetic consciousness, aesthetic sense and physical force. For Rhee Jeong-yoen, work has the same concept with the purity of labor. The handicraft approach of making something accompanies a labor. Though it does not require intensive force, still the process of making a form by finger is similar to a labor.
The work of Rhee Jeong-yoen may have its objective at becoming closer to the work of a farmer working in a field. The process of plowing a field, sowing seeds and getting crops is not very different from the process of creation by the Creator. She also pastes natural material on natural base like soil and varnishes with lacquer to create forms. Therefore, the forms do not look like having been forced and they look natural. She makes random forms like the furrows made by a farmer.
All materials used by Rhee Jeong-yoen are natural materials as she focuses on the purity of expression. In other words, the materials are not processed products changed of its properties but they keep original natural properties. They are the materials, which meet the thesis of ‘new genesis’. It means using natural material which was created when the world was created.
One of the natural materials she uses is lacquer, which is taken from lacquer tree. She also uses hemp cloth as the canvas. Hemp cloth is a kind of textile woven by a loom or a weaving machine, which has crude and rough texture. This bast-fiber fabric is used in Korea to make traditional clothes or used as a living tool. Like some modern fine artists use a gunnysack as a canvas, Rhee Jeong-yoen uses the crude fabric of hemp cloth as a canvas.
Bast-fiber fabric is not proper for neat and smooth expression because it has sparse gaps in fabric which are loose enough to show the forms of warps and wefts. On the other hand, it is very effective when the unique texture and image of bast-fiber fabric are used in expressive image like in the work of Rhee Jeong-yoen.
Rhee Jeong-yoen uses hemp cloth as a canvas because the crude ply of the textile does the role of expressive image. She just applies lacquer on the hemp cloth pasted on the base plate without adding any other coloring material. When the work is completed, the hemp cloth works as an excellent expressive image like other materials. Of course, the textile is not in its pure state because she uses ‘geon-chil’ method during lacquer varnishing, which is piling up hemp cloth repeatedly.
Rhee Jeong-yoen uses materials such as lacquer, nacre, soil, charcoal powder, gold and skin of egg or duck egg. She arrived at these natural materials after contemplating on the issue of work preservation. For her, it was the matter of trust to preserve her works for a long time without using industrial coloring. Lacquer is semi-permanent material, which does not change after thousands of year like we can see in the lacquer ware relics excavated from underground. Furthermore, lacquer gives more profound feeling as time goes by and its color property becomes darker and mellower.
The work of Rhee Jeong-yoen using lacquer is clearly different from the work using industrial colors by showing completely different visual image from traditional colored painting or oil painting. This is the result of new formative production enabled by the characteristic of material. As she uses lacquer, nacre, soil, charcoal powder and gold, her work gives crude and pure impression and it has the smell and power of soil.
Each of these natural materials has unique color. Though the colors do not have the luxury of prime colors, the colors of natural materials are good enough to replace industrial colors. Especially, they have good preservation property because they do not change much by external environmental conditions such as humidity and temperature. Furthermore, they meet the requirement of expressive purity, which is the formative idea of Rhee Jeong-yoen. In other words, they are the materials, which can keep the original purity to meet the thesis of ‘new genesis’.
The work of Rhee Jeong-yoen does not put weight on the description of a detail form. There are forms such as a funnel, a coffee pot, a piece of bamboo, a ‘daegeum’ (Korean traditional woodwind instrument), a chair or forms look like a tree or mountain. There are images in round form which remind us of a lotus flower, lotus leaf, fish, sun, moon and star. But none of those forms is complete. They are expressed in distorted, incomplete and inarticulate state. They do not have the refined image coming from descriptive completion.
Furthermore, they do not have any regularity in their constitution and arrangement. Their location is more in random than free. It is quite different from intentional and calculated formative constitution. There is no formative formula in the form, size and arrangement of the images. In short, her work is as fresh as an untamed wild thing. Perhaps it is the result of expression method relying on intuition. I think Rhee Jeong-yoen increased her power of intuition on objects by doing zen, meditation and yoga for years.
It is possible that the form we see in the work of Rhee Jeong-yoen is the representation of her mental image. But still that mental image is not stored in her as a standardized form. Her expression method of maximizing the physical property and expressive power of material is induced by the emotion or the flow of consciousness during her work. The form she pursues is different from natural beauty. It is not an aesthetic sense tamed by education but is the product of pure consciousness and sensitivity under the disguise of nature.
Rhee Jeong-yoen firmly believes that all objects in the world are created exactly as the Creator wanted. It may be a religious belief of her but truly the exquisite forms of natural objects are indescribably mysterious. All objects forming the system of nature are perfect creations made by necessity, which means that they are the products of the all mighty Creator.
The views on nature and religion held by Rhee Jeong-yoen clearly suggested the direction of her work. First, she answered to the creativity of the Creator by using natural materials. Then she applies her intuition obtained by zazen, meditation and yoga on her work. Next she induces a formative thinking which follows the flow of emotion and consciousness. I think the purity and power felt in the forms of her work comes from here.
Her work can be said the materialization of spirit. The property of natural material is divinity. All creations of the Creator are perfect in the aspect of material value because they have unique value and property. It is proven by the fact that nothing in the world is faulty. Therefore, each material used by Rhee Jeong-yoen exposes self in complete form. In other words, they work in having the formative image become more clearly highlighted while exposing their property as a natural material.
For instance, the mysterious color and light eradicated from nacre makes her formative world into a world of mystery. I think they are trying to remind us of the fact that they are the best materials in the materialization of spirit. The light of spirit means the representation of clever aesthetic sense, which covers the view on life, view on nature, view on world, formative idea and philosophy agglomerated in her. Likewise, the forms in the work of Rhee Jeong-yoen are a kind of talk from inside and the materialization of spirit which exposes the inside of her.
Rhee Jeong-yoen listens to the voice from her inside while working. She opens her ears to the voice of her true ego. She expects the flow of pure expressive forms flow out like in a pond by doing such. The forms similar to a piece of empty bamboo, a wooden wind instrument and a funnel in her work are the media which transmit her inside talk. They are the tools that tell her inside talk, which she wants the world to hear. The form that looks like a piece of empty bamboo is also a tool, by which she expresses her interest in the outer world and she listens to the sound of it. Therefore, the form given by Rhee Jeong-yoen is a language which symbolizes the two way communication between the world and me.