The Spirituality of Pine Trees Reflected onto the Car Hoods
By Chang Mi-jin, Art Critic & Ph.D. in Aesthetics
Pine trees have become the primary motif and inspiration within Yoon Sang-cheon’s work. They are also his trademark subject matter. He says, “From earliest times, Korean people have been under the profound influence of pine trees, both materially and spiritually. They are born and live with pine trees, and die under their shade. Korean culture can perhaps be defined as a pine tree culture. I wish to discover our cultural identity by reflecting and recalling our national emotion, sentiment, and our emotional solidarity, through pine trees, by relating tradition to the contemporary. Through pine trees we can sense the rhythm of growth, wisdom of the age, inherited historical energy, and life force, derived from communication between heaven and earth.”
Yoon’s artistic will is reflected in his pine tree paintings. The artist constantly depicts a wide variety of pine trees - from one or two pine trees, to pine woods exuding an atmosphere and mood in accord with their region and habitat. As Yoon has long indulged in the single subject matter of pine trees, he is well versed in depicting them. His paintings feature the trunks of pine trees; reveal their red skin, and the fresh green leaves shining under sunlight, giving off vitality and vividness. Yoon works mainly with oil on canvas, but this time depicts pine trees on car hoods. He uses a steel bonnet, part of a car, a modern item replacing the canvas.
Mother Nature offers contemporary humans dharma conversations, but we often have no way to listen. Yoon focuses on the silhouettes of pine trees passing over the hoods, and at times pine trees reflected on parked cars. Distorted in form, line, and color, his pine trees subtly reflect the air and light. The reflected pine trees are a reflected language of trees, recalling their energy, rather than the mere representation of pine trees.
The steel car hood is for Yoon a modified canvas. After getting a variety of hoods from auto junkyards and car repair shops, he rubs off the paint, using circular grinders and an air compressor, then applies several layers of primary color, and then finally draws his pictures in oil. Each work of art is completed with several processes, of reviving the effects of reflected sunlight, and by applying varnish to the bonnet, to revive its original gloss. All these processes require heavy labor. Nevertheless, Yoon say he feels delight in this processes of creation. His endeavor, to revive the pine tree’s cultural aura, with a contemporary feel, can be sensed in his hood paintings, demanding strenuous efforts and time.
In this work Yoon presents pine trees reflected onto contemporary life, through a process of abstraction, by distorting form and blurring images. The artist approaches pine trees as part of our mental imagery, and the space and time each tree takes up through such processes.
His upcoming work involves a car in a gallery depicting pine trees on the windows, roof, and trunk, plus the hood. It also includes video and sound, like the sound of wind blowing through pine woods. As Yoon’s ability to describe is excellent, he will no doubt exploit a wide range of creative strategies reveal the pine tree’s divine nature and spirituality, and so open up a more profound, broader of work.