Poetry of Visual Arts- Kyung Youl Yoon’s Imagery Art Exhibition

Cong Zhiyuan
Abstractionism started in the early 20th century. Russia art master Kandinsky and other originators found that besides concrete subjects and objective images, paintings could also be abstract in search of spiritual expression. After that, Western artists started the tireless pursuit and exploration of abstract art. At first, they painted purely elusive emotions and thoughts; 30 years later, the pursuit of capturing the spiritual expression went to the extreme, and abstract art lost the support of the original solid painting and artistic accomplishment. The purely spiritual exploration became an empty pursuit.

Then artists began exploring the shape, structure, color field and materials of abstract art. They believed that the abstraction of color and geometry could also express their yearning of pure art. Geometric abstraction and the color field abstraction genre began to surface. Artists began taking the study of abstract painting to the extreme; paragons of this movement were Piet Mondrian and Henry Hoffman.

In the 1980s, artists found that it was difficult to sustain the development of abstractionism if there was no spiritual expression captured in the paintings. As a result, artists began the abstract painting of combining the spiritual and material; strong ideology, personal, emotional and even political themes were once again part of their artwork. In New York, William de Kooning’s abstract expressionism received the public’s attention.

When Western abstract art and oriental impressionistic painting, especially the Chinese scholar painting, follow the spiritual realm, the different roads lead to the same place. The Korean artist, Kyung Youl Yoon, has been influenced by Korean traditional and Chinese Confucianism, Taoism, and the oriental culture. He has embraced abstract expressionism and has been exploring the abstract imagery painting, gradually forming his own painting style which combines oriental emotions with Western abstract imagery: Colored imagery painting.

Kyung Youl Yoon comes from a small town in southern Korea. His father was a Korean medicine practitioner and passed away when Kyung Youl Yoon was six years old. His mother had to leave home and move to Seoul for work to support her three children. When he was in fourth grade, his art teacher discovered his artistic talent, and assigned him with the task of artistic decorations for the classrooms, and to prepare the seal engravings for inhabitants in the town. In pursuit of his dream to be an artist, he continued to work on his art at his young age.

At the time, he couldn’t afford a college education so he worked for an art decoration firm after finishing high school, in an effort to stay in the field of art. During that period, he met a lot of famous artists and professors. His artwork was selected for the competition sponsored by the Daily News Paper “Dong Ah”, also his other works were nominated to an art competition, which was held at the National Art Museum in Seoul.

It wasn’t until he went to Spain, that his dreams of becoming a well-respected artist came true. With Yoon’s pursuit for a turning point in his art, he moved to Madrid with his wife and children, and began his seven-year Western chasing-art dream career. He studied painting, printmaking and sculpture at the University of Bellas Artes. He also took classes in a Spanish school to learn the language and to immerse in its culture. His artistic talent and hard efforts led him to his prominence and recognition in Spain. He held exhibitions, earned a scholarship, and was awarded the First Prize at the Summer Workshop Competition in Spain. In 1995, he took his family and moved to the center of modern art in the world – New York – to chase his dreams of modern art. His career of exploring and contributing to modern art as a professional artist began unfolding in New York, and the starting point was his solo exhibition in Seoul National Art Museum.

The art philosophy of Kyung Youl Yoon has originated from two different sources: the orient and the West. At the start of his career, he was greatly influenced by Confucianism of Confucius, Mencius’ ideology, Taoism of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi, and Buddhism. Yoon had a strong volition to apply these ideologies to his art and his life.

He was later inspired by Michel Foucault, Mark Larkin, and Freud’s subconscious theory when he lived in Spain. The theory entails emphasizing in extra-sensory memory, fragments accumulated in the memory of a dream and life. Kyung Youl Yoon has transformed emotions, thoughts and feelings inspired by his dreams, and memories into points, lines, and colors; those shapes and colors have been transformed harmoniously, expressing his poetic and sensitive inner mind.

In his artwork “the moon and I,” he has applied the old traditional Korean tale that praying to the moon brings new lives – to express the symbol of life and vitality. The circular shape of the moon depicts inclusiveness and broadness. The moon looks like a mirror that reflects his thoughts, tranquility, and soul when he daydreams under the gray-blue night sky. In his artwork “River and Bridge,” he depicts all kinds of abstract lines, angles, spaces and structures from the bridge, to express that crossing a bridge is like crossing the bridge of his changing life. Kyung Youl Yoon has stated: “I do not start with determined subjects or a map in mind. As I draw and paint, I find and meet what I paint. Just like the way that you find your path amidst the ever dynamic world. It is like an osmotic action. The process lets the result be more meaningful.”

Kyung Youl Yoon works with water-based, oil-based, mixed media, and printmaking to create artworks. He tries to convey his internal self, emotions, imagination, thoughts, and mind through his paintings. The diminishing echoes, marks, and textures in his artwork become seeds and new forms of meaningful rivers.

His painting color is very unique, in addition to his artistic talent, because of his professor’s guidance and encouragement when he studied in Spain. He applies his imagination of the nature for reference to set up the color tone for the entire painting. He then selects contrasting colors from the background to create the color structure of the entire painting, and to set the rhythm of color tone. For example, in his painting “Flowing Forms,” Yoon depicts flowers and plants, and uses abstract lines and colors to express the rhythm of the fall. His use of natural yellow tone in autumn as the major color tone, pairing with purple roses, purple blue, black-and-white on orange, and olive yellow as contrasting colors, has created the beautiful autumn stream movement.

He believes that the art of Vassily Kandinsky focuses on expressionism, and it is an external abstraction, like music and sounds. Yoon’s art expresses the abstract of the inner mind and subconscious. The abstract expression of artist William de Kooning is like an emotional outburst, showing a non-inhibition of wildness, ferment and unrest. Yoon’s art emphasizes on the emotion and expression of the heart; his art is the performance of a controlled rational mind – plain, quiet, elegant and harmonious. In short, William de Kooning’s abstract shows mood; his abstract shows artistic conception. This is the difference between Eastern and Western artists.

It is my pleasure to invite Korean-American artist Mr. Kyung Youl Yoon to have an Exhibition at the Shanghai Liuhaisu Art Museum. I would like to thank Shanghai Liuhaisu Art Museum for giving me this opportunity to be the curator of this exhibition. I would also like to thank Mr. Zhang Jian (Curator of Shanghai Liu Haisu Art Museum), Mr. Xu Rong (Associate Director of Shanghai Liu Haisu Art Museum), Ms. Wang Xinhua (Party Secretary of Shanghai Liu Haisu Art Museum) and the delegation of Shanghai Liu Haisu Art Museum for appreciating Mr. Kyung Youl Yoon’s artworks. We choose meticulously from Mr. Yoon’s hundreds of paintings, and selected 50 pieces to show in this exhibition. I hope that the Chinese public will enjoy his art and get a taste of the Western art world. I also hope that Mr.Kyung Youl Yoon will be inspired in China and create more magnificent work for us.

Heartfelt congratulations to the success of the exhibition!

Curator: Professor Zhiyuan Cong
Director of the Center for Chinese Art at William Paterson University
June 2013
New Jersey, USA