Islands Floating on the Sea of Mind

Park, Young-Taek / Art critic, Professor at Kyunggi Univ.

In Chang, Hyun-Jae’s paintings only waters, islands/mountains are quietly placed.  The scenes come from the landscape of the nature, but at the same time it could be said to be anti-landscape.  It is because the established familiar system and the structure of landscape are tacitly removed, and kept away.  In fact in front of the paintings we find no information concrete or actual to read the scenes as landscape.  There are nothing but several couples of long and triangular shapes brushed in ink, placed side by side on the background dyed with dim yellow soil or golden colors.  The scenes, of course, look like the landscape of Dadohae in the southern sea and are also associated with usual waterside-scape in our nature or magnificent scenes of mountains in many folds.

But they can be the scenery only when viewer drama or imagination is intervened in.  If such dramas are removed, her paintings/a kind of landscape are somewhat far from the ones bound to regulation or practice.

The paintings exclude stories and are, to some extent, free from prejudice and ideology about nature.  However her paintings are still tied to the category of landscape-mountains and waters.  And as for artists, the landscape, mountains and waters function as the only mark to guarantee the identity of artists and the entity of Korean paintings, not only as the choice of genre or subject matters of paintings.

Chang, Hyun-Jae does not so much represent the nature existing in front of her as removes the objects and draws original landscapes depending on her own mental image. At the same time, the paintings have empirical signs of mountains and waters paintings at the minimum.  They seem to be the conceptualized landscapes as metaphysics.  Thus they are not real islands or mountains but illusory islands and nature.  All the same as to the artist the islands and mountains are not different from more actual landscape.  The word of landscape means all the environment surrounding humans.  It is related to the cognition about space including the concept of place.  So to speak, space is eventually real substance showing the circulation and change of creation and extinction in time linked with human life. 

Chang, Hyun-Jae shows the composition of the space she experiences by repeating the forms resolved into intrinsic nature in folds.  As for me in her works I can look into Space-Nature-Life composed of such fragments of mind.  I can find that her recent works indicate that she represents her own space, fragmentary thoughts and meditation by borrowing the signs of landscapes.  The paintings containing mentality and emotion of the artist featuring landscape-signs are ultimately landscape as a kind of self-portrait.

Ink and mixed mediums thinly covering the skin of the paper make a compromise between the taste of ink and homogeneous matiere.  In the respect of style and technique that colors/matters are coexisting in the monotone, Chang, Hyun-Jae’s works are relatively sincere to the traditional code of Korean paintings, and add a little change to it.

In the process of brushing, the surface of painting is repeatedly covered with multiple layers of emotions therefore the psychological feelings and the desire for expression are naturally exposed.  But it is doubtful whether this method is that effective.  I hope the confined experience of materials, the strict aesthetic concept about landscape-mountains and waters will not limit the frame of her paintings.

Her paintings are associated with landscape of Dadohae, the vague scenes of islands disappearing in folds far away.  The islands that resemble our mountains are soft, smooth and comfortable.  The shapes of the convexed triangular forms look like soaring with their heads into the isolate empty space.  They also look like rocks/stones or graves.  The similarity of the shapes that is resolved into a kind of diagram comes from condensed viewpoints of the Oriental nature, our landscape.  It is the shape of mountains/islands that symbolize the energy and life vertically soaring towards sky.  For this reason, our ancestors took mountains as objects for awe, admiration and belief. 

To the conclusion, these images/shapes appearing in Chang, Hyun-Jae’s paintings come from one condensed oriental viewpoint of nature, which makes one original form of nature.  In addition the forms tremble at the borders, and are not located in one fixed place.  Their silhouettes are not flatly closed, but they are open and seeping into each other in many folds.  There are islands inside of islands, islands beside islands are newly born emerging from the ground.  The islands sound like making a fuss to long for unknown, utopia, origin.  She manages the space of actual life in this way or others taking the composition as the sea of inner mind.  It is similar to the experience of placing stones like the hobby of trees and stones arrangement.  It is a kind of landscape architecture.  As a matter of fact mountains and waters paintings of the Orient are based on such background.

As for me, when seeing the mountains and waters paintings of the Orient I can appreciate the displayed landscape architecture /condensed nature/artists own religious feature and order of nature through artists inner world.

I am now meeting the very scenes like this in Chang, Hyun-Jae’s works.