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Printed on hanji: korean traditional hand made fiber paper.
Edition of 5
Dimensions: 154cm (H) x 114cm (W) x 5cm (D) / 60.6" (H) x 44.9" (W) x 2" (D)
Note: Actual colours may vary due to photography & computer settings.
Woman as the Landscape
Each nation and country has its unique customs. The customs, passed on from generation to generation, take firm place as the culture of a particular society. Even in the highly communicative, open societies of the world today, such culture does not change easily. Rather, things that previously have been overlooked or underestimated are often rediscovered as precious values. How can cultural identity based on such locality gain universal value? That is the issue today.
Woo Chong-Il's center of interest has long been the beauty of women. From his early works in the US to his recent photographs, he has never deviated from landscapes shaped by women. While his early works depicted diverse forms of women in relation to daily life, recently Woo has focused on the life of Korean women, particularly those of the late Choseon Dynasty. From women of the highest status, such as empress, to women of taverns who entertained the learned aristocrats of the time, Woo carries out his work in two directions.
Though the women of taverns in the Choseon Dynasty were known as "kisaeng," they were the most progressive group of women in their time. Culture such as literature, music and art were requirements for one to become a kisaeng. The term "hae-eo hwa," that is, "flower who understands the intellectuals," was used to describe them. The men also considered them as persons well versed in culture. Compared to the majority of women, who were more or less confined to their homes, the kisaeng were women of a new generation who were able to talk freely with men and to communicate with the world.
Woo accesses their intimate daily lives. The lives of Korean women with unique social status are elaborately represented through his work, where traditional costumes showing peculiar beauty, and the mysterious eroticism suggested by girls who are yet to mature, are melted together.
There is a clear difference between the beauty of Korean women and the Western concept of beauty. The beauty of Korean women does not reveal physical beauty directly and attempt to analyze it by scientific measures. It is not a revealing beauty but a beauty that enables viewers to imagine. Such beauty is closely related to the women's costumes. The recent works of the artist focus on revealing the bare minimum of that hidden beauty. Thereby the artist seems to think he can touch upon another erogenous zone of Korean eroticism.
As the axis of the theme "women and eroticism" is combined with the ancient traditional Korean culture and newly revealed as the national identity of an era, it serves as an example of universal value that can interest anyone, beyond the given time.
Meanwhile, another kind of work by the artist changes the Korean woman, who is quite often portrayed using a mirror. Western furniture is placed in the picture, and the artist seemingly intends to show the front and rear appearances of the subject simultaneously. This work is in the same context as the earlier-mentioned one, with the body not revealed but concealed as much as possible by the costume.
To the artist, who designs and interprets various landscapes through the woman's body as he traverses the past and present, reality and fiction, "woman" is an eternal question.
Based in: Korea
Women of the Joseon Dynasty is an example of Woo’s reinterpretation of Korea’s modern history, which he achieves by re-photographing historically well-known people with modern people. The artwork also challenges its own identity because the photograph is textured with individually shot pebbles and gem stones.
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