brilliant 30: Seungho Yoo
Incorporating traditional literature elements in landscape art
Incorporating traditional literature elements in landscape art
Seungho Yoo works on transforming and disbanding the relationship between language and letters in order to dissolve the original meaning in the words, in the language. Among his works, the series of ‘Munjasansu’ or calligram landscape painting is the most representative in this respect. His paintings, ‘Munjasansu,’ look like appropriate masterpieces of traditional eastern landscapes, but the elements composing the figures are not lines but fully packed minute letters. Landscape images are seen when we look at the work from a distance, but these images disappear and letters come into sight when we come closer to the canvas to such an extent as to recognize the true elements composing the painting. Images become texts all of a sudden.
The letters used in the images do not match the image perfectly.
He used ‘shoo’ imitating the sound of a rocket launching, to depict the mountain top and composed the whole painting with the word ‘Yahoo’, the hurray sound in Korean made on top of mountains. Spectators can enjoy or be touched by the fact that such a huge image consists in fact of countless letters, but they can also feel alienated from the letters since the meanings are dissolved within the work. Seungho Yoo tries to bring down the analogy that language and images represent by dismantling traditional meanings. Artist Yoo ‘writes’ paintings and ‘draws’ letters.
Q. You primarily use motifs of traditional landscape paintings although you majored in Western painting. What is the reason behind handling such classical motifs?
I did not begin from a serious awareness or contemplation on Korean identities or tradition. As I paid my attention to the aspects of relation, motifs naturally formed from traditional aspects within.
Q. Please elaborate on your thoughts on relation.
By relation, I mean coincidental relationships which do not come directly into view with language or in society. It would be possible to think of them as feasible relationships among irrelevant things? The present time I live in does not look relevant to the past events due to the periodical gap. I constantly sense that something is still related immanently. The present time I live in does not look relevant to the past events due to the periodical gap. However, I constantly sense that something is still related immanently.
What I experienced while growing up are far from contemporary urban life or culture. My experience of helping my mother who did farming in the countryside was quite intimate, and something felt during that time have become the motifs for my works. - Seung Ho Yoo -
Q. Is it related with your preference toward Goguryeo mural paintings?
In some parts, yes. I feel emotional energy even though they are weak from these paintings. What I experienced while growing up are far from contemporary urban life or culture. My experience of helping my mother who did farming in the countryside was quite intimate, and something felt during that time have become the motifs for my works. Nevertheless, because I had no special favoritism toward eastern paintings, this very point is what I am seriously concerned about. I wonder whether I should support my works with certain theories or put more importance on my feelings sensed from intimate experiences such as the moment of ‘meong’ (mind going blank in Korean). Certain energy, or an emotional energy is significant for me, and the traditional images I have chosen are what I am able to sense such energies. I like to add my energy to the works I feel a significant energy from.
Q. You 'write' paintings and 'paint' letters. I assume such a contradictory practice, or a different way of defining genre is stemmed from the tradition in ‘Si, Seo, Wha (poem, letter, painting)’ of literary painting, which has walked a distinctive step from Western modern arts.
This is the first time to state this precisely although I have desired someone to mention it. Having not studied theories, I am not accustomed to express these thoughts, but I believe this to be crucial. My works mainly consist of three parts 'Munjasansu,’ which are letters, poem, and figurative language.
Q. Can we say that you get inspired from everything you encounter in your daily life?
Yes, all objects and phenomena are seeds of imagination.
Q. Do you recall when one of your acquaintances told you, ‘I can smell alcohol in your poem.’? Please explain the process of your poetic works.
After drinking two-thirds of Korean rice wine, I start writing poems and complete it even before the first bottle is gets empty. These poems sometimes come accidentally while drunk, but I usually write the poem with words or images I noted down in the state on ‘meong.’ The expression 'meong,' can be the Korean barking sound, 'meongmeong (bow-wow), a bruise, and also the state of the mind being blank, since all share the same letters ‘meong’ in Korean. Segmenting, destructing, and making insignificant of meanings like this is the essence of my works, and the poems I write.
Q. Do you have a certain attitude or philosophy in mind when facing them?
Not being a scholar, I do not work based on a specific theory. I like the word ‘Yoochihan,’ the Korean word meaning ‘being childish.’’ My approach to my work process seems easy-going, childlike and sometimes even careless which can make the original meanings insignificant. My work is simply play with daily life, which is quite childish. I actually use the world ‘Yoochihan’ as my signature for my works.
Q. Do you have any last comments?
The source of the energy of my art is not physical but something internal. I can’t define the internal matters specifically however; I gain energy from them. So I try to free my brain consistently to get this energy going. Though my working process may seem tedious and boring, some may find it very intriguing. I would like to become an artist who makes spectators express conflicting feelings of ‘incredible’ and ‘fun.’ I will try to be alert to where I belong and not lose my identity as an artist.
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Seung Ho Yoo_Ink on Paper_160x66.7cm_2012-2013
Love Love, Who Says
Seung Ho Yoo_Ink on Paper_160.2x122cm_2009-2012
Oh, What a Story
Seung Ho Yoo_Ink on Paper_160x150cm_2012-2013
Seung Ho Yoo_silver leaf, Pigment on Paper_116.9x92cm_2013
Graduated from the Department of Painting at Hansung University, Yoo has shown works that exhibit the relationship between language and images in a new way through the form of 'Munjasansu (calligram landscape painting)'. Yoo was given the Excellence Award at the 5th Gongsan Art Festival's contest exhibition, and the received the 22nd Seoknam Art Award. The artist has held solo exhibitions eight times since 1999 and about 70 group exhibitions. Yoo also participated in programs in Ssamji Space, Gana Art Center, Nanji Art Creative Studio, Doosan New York Residency, and so on. Seungho Yoo's works are owned by Korean National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul Arts Center, Ssamji Collection, Museum of Ehwa Women's University, Houston Museum (United States), Mori Museum (Japan), and Queensland Art Gallery (England).