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Lew, June Sang <On Lee Dong Youb's Axis>

Critique 평론 1992.06.24 22:43
On Lee Dong Youb's Axis

By Lew June Sang
(art critic, chief curator of National Museum of Contemporary Art of Korea)


First of all before anything else, there is a white ground with no color, with no shape. "With no color, with no shape" does not necessarily mean that the constancy of the object viewed, namely, the palne of Lee Dong Youb, remains always so. Rather, it means that our visual perception evaluates it so. This eloquently testifies to the fact that human eyes are simply not a physical appratus. Thus, "with no color, with no shape" is closely associated with intuition of man, the beholding subject of perception and recognition. The physical space which encircles us is a completely closed, single integrity in spite of its infiniteness. Within it, there can be no blank space. Everywhere there must be something here and there. Starting from a grain of soil, there are grasses, trees, streams, mountains, blue skies and stars twinkling far there yonder. In other words, something and anything always stimulates the visual perception of our eyes. Let us call it nature, for instance. Let us weave those visual perceptions with something like the net of our memory association, arranging them with color, and call it a landscape painting. Here, there can be no blank space.

It was in the Orient that blank space was raised as an issue in art. This pattern of recognition, usually called in some other word, "remaining space" may be traced as far back to the days of China's ancient legendary sage-ruler Fu Hsi. Here, the universe (or the world) has been perceived not by analytical means but by way of perceiving its entirety. An instance of blank space on the point may be "Tao" of China's Lao-Tze which has been often quoted in and around art circles until some time ago. In this reasoning, "blank space" has been said as the nameless, unnamable origin of heaven and earth. They said it is an invisible non-being, inaudible silence and intangible void. They also said that this "no color, no shape" was the fundamental origin and this fundamental origin takes its shape with the catalyst of two opposing energies of yin and yang. Shape-taking by the fundamental origin means a process of equilibration, or in contemporary terminology, the ballast, or by the word of Confucius, moderation of the golden mean. Then it goes on to say that blank space is restored back to simplicity of the fundamental origin, losing its particularity, nomenclature or self-identity, and at the same time regains the peace of mind by merging into the universe within silence (blank space).

This view of the universe, of course, can not be approached with logical reasoning because no logic plays a guiding role in the process of this apprehension. Logic has a goal but no value orientations straightly associated with the life of human. Against such background, art of the world began to search for a new sign in an inductive way from the fundamental origin at the turn of the 19th century. Hence, it has been said that concepts in contemporary art began to search for a new breakthrough in the Oriental thought.

Blank space denoteds a wide range of limits within which any association is possible. It is a force as if air tends to permeate everywhere and it can be apprehended not by reason but by intuition. In the latter half of the 1970s, one of mainstreams in the contemporary art of Korea was earnestly attempting at the spreading of this reasoning and Lee Dong Youb was the one among them.

Here is a vertical axis arbitrarily erected on the ceter of the white plane by the artist an the axis is delicatelyl vibrating at the threshold of visual perception. Even though we don't know what process there might have been until point. At any rate our eyes (retinas) indicate to us that a shape of a straight vertical axis stands up from the center of a white ground but our eyes also inform us that our brains report back nothing about its shape. This is why we say we don't know what it is. When I said that "The vertical axis is vibrating delicately," I said so because since the drawn contours of vertical shapes are standing in a minor grading of shade and shadow, a phenomenon can be perceived in which the vertical steel, when struck, shakes to the left and the right for a while producing some lingering sounds in the wake. However, in case we define the sound as the 'do' note, its sound wave is one thing and its tonal perception is another. In other words, the sound of 'do' is the sign of that note at the same time.

After all, the arrangement of many constituent factors in paintin may be reduced to an arrangement of such signs and codes. In procreation of such signs and codes as in the words of G. Bachelard, it seems that Lee Dong Youb attempts not at imge itself but endeaveors to re-invoke at the point of the fundamental origin in time structure for the genesis of image. Then, an analogy goes here that the image of a twisted tree comes from an imaginary perception of a tree growing through the stage of such twisting and wrenching.

As quoted in the foregoing, China's legendary sage-ruler Fu Hsi looked up to the skies, drew a line and desinated it as one of fundamental symbolic sign as can be seen in the yang and yin of the Great Ultimate in the national flag of Korea. In this context Lee Dong Youb assumes an outlook that the sigh that reveals "spontaneous integrity" is handed down from esoteric vibration impregnated from time immemorial as is the relation between the sound note and the sound wave, and he is the one who has been re-invoking the sign of his art from this outlook. On this account, his work at his early stage about ten years ago generated considerable attention and he has been at this work up to date.

His work, as such, has pursued the eternal echo in an esoteric perception of the universe right from his early stage and his journey has been lengthy, widely scattered and full of ordeals. A negative outlook on the possibilities in contemporary art orinigates from an intent to exclude a great part of possibilities from the realm of reality.

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