Ko Younghoon

Ko Younghoon, born in 1952 on Jeju Island, South Korea.
In the history of contemporary Korean art, Ko is an important hyperrealist of the 1980s. Since that time, his favourite subject has been the stone, depicted on top of an open book or newspaper, plus their shadows. This raises questions about what the objects represent, or about their essential nature. So, even though his work clearly draws on influences of Western contemporary art, it is also the product of an almost mystical reflection on traditional Korean aesthetic values and on the concepts of nothingness (mu 無) and existence (yu 有).

« It was at university that my attachment to the stones present in my work was at its strongest. An informal atmosphere reminded me of my rejection of nature, but also my adoration of it. At the time, my favourite subjects were pure and natural things, such as stones, trees, water, sky. I chose stones as a subject matter as I felt they represented the most primal aspect of nature. Stones for me at the time, represented a large, idealised universe and a transcendent world, set apart from reality. But with time, I gave them a more conceptualised meaning, considering them from a logical viewpoint, and they became both a material and descriptive element. The material element inspires interest in an object and represents a coexistence with nature and culture, ie the stone represented a primitive culture and generalised it as a reality and an ideal.» - KO Younghoon

Ko Younghoon likes stones, those vestiges of the earth’s memory that act as a catalyst for the most elementary forces of energy. The Chinese consider them to be each one a world. But time passes, giving them a symbolic value, more interiorized, between nature and culture. The con- figuration of his stones, round or sharpened, oblong or dented, influences the organisation of his mineral scenographies, corresponding to the shifts in the artist’s moods. He identifies with them, and vice-versa, thus determining his gesture of appropriating the stones within his work. Combining in his painting lettered messages and their relation to stones, he positions them within the pages of an open book or imposed on newspapers, strangely gravity-free, in a way that creates contrasts in tension, modifying the sense of the displaced objects. This creates a sort of wakened dream, never broken from natural ebbs, in which reality and illusion combine. As my much missed friend Lee Il said, « the book is both book and object, but that object is not a book. It can present the properties and structure of a book, but however fine the precision of the simulation, that object is not a book ». We are thus directed to a double interpretation, of this oneiric illusion, which in fact is but one other version of reality.