Art Critic’s Essay

Korea and Spain share a common feature, which is they are both peninsulas. I emphasize this character, since we all know that geography molds and makes its inhabitants. It bestows a gift upon its people through its communal name, the adjudication of the name, which is why we should look into the interrelation of Korea and its people, the “Land of the Morning Calmness.”

Our respective lands are alike in that they were territories traveled and conquered, and coveted and invaded; without a doubt, loved by all the people that inhabited it, open to miscegenation and cultural integration. The land of welcoming.

When we judge a person, we first question where the person is from, and we judge whether these people come from places not well esteemed. However, as for Kyung Youl Yoon, the Spaniards will undoubtedly refer to him, sentimentally, by his descendants: his child was born here, in Madrid, while he was accomplishing his studies in the university. Every time he introduces his daughter with a fatherly pride, and explains that she was born in Spain, we feel flattered.

I first met Yoon at the university, and it was an invaluable experience to have him as a student. Every day, he surprised his fellow classmates, as much as he surprised me. He had his own views and realizations of aesthetic findings, and made curious comments regarding our culture, showing us a new different perspective, through the viewpoint of an Easterner.

Even Henri Michaux, who was known for his sharp and bitter critics toward the Western culture, as much as the Eastern culture (A Barbarian in Asia, 1932), has found himself admiring Korea: “the Korean folk music is very tragic and terrible, however, the women sang the song very lightly.” Michaux was marveled. Kyung Youl Yoon’s works are alike: a magic union of tragedy, lightness, agony, and moral and poetic calmness. Yoon’s artworks are filled by tragic emotions, and this itself is the ultimate aim that he is reaching for: the creation of work that is free, complete, and detached from the creator’s hands. As Flaubert put it: “An artist must make works like God in the universe: present everywhere, yet not visible at all.” This can be applied to descriptions of Korean oriental calligraphy art, which looks as though it originated by itself, without the hands of any creator, especially the Korean artwork, which is perhaps the most refined oriental artwork. It is surprising because of its calm strokes and exact combinations of horizontal and vertical movements. Eastern calligraphy art reveals the sweetness and tranquility of a paradise; it is like a plowed river that meanders, born by the stroke of one single divine act. At times, the dexterity of oriental calligraphy is like a controlled anatomical and instrumental movement, which is impossible to imitate in the West.

Michaux also said in his essay, “People from the East love the far horizons, those which they cannot reach…but Europeans like to touch with their hands… So the atmosphere of the work is heavy.” In the Eastern artwork, “there is no space between objects, but only pure ether. The objects are present and absent at the same time, like delicate spirits that have not been able to fulfill their wishes.” This type of art is seen in the paintings of mountains, such as Mt. Paetku-san, Korea’s unique and mysterious mountain where the gods may appear themselves before us.

Kyung Youl Yoon has also incorporated the teachings of Per Kirkeby intelligently, knowing well that emotions – a word that he uses frequently in his discussions – shake the creative process, correcting the obtuse visual reality and amplifying the limit of art.

Lastly, I would like to say that if Prince AhnPyung and the patrons of art were awaken from their death and took a good look at Yoon’s artworks, there is no doubt that he would be invited in their palace, to sit next to An Kyon, his favorite painter.