Point and word picture that scatter about in an idiot wind-Yoo Seung-ho
Lee Chung-woo / Editor-in-Chief, Art in Culture Magazine
“Writing down the sound and vibration of a floating mind”

The painter Yoo Seung-ho(b. 1973) is well-known for making representational paintings that billow with the repetition of tiny, grain-size words, and for extracting fascinating semi-abstract images from tiny colored points. Graduating from the painting department of Hansung University in 1999, Yoo held his first solo show year at Jo Seong Hee Gallery. And with participation in group shows such as Beyond Landscape at ArtSonje Center and Korea Contemporary Art of the 90s at Ellen Kim Murphy Gallery, Yoo rot his career off to an official start. Yoo got did not have much trouble gaining recognition as a new face, especially because his paintings are so unique you cannot forget them after seeing them once. In 2000, he held his second solo show at the Seonam Art Center, and in 2001, he was selected to participate in Ssamzie Space’s third studio residency program and worked there for a year. In 2002, his work was shown in various exhibition such as the 2002 Gwangju Biennale. Perhaps it was thanks to the smooth, upward trajectory of his career that in 2003, yoo was awarded, along with Hong Young-in, the Seoknam Art Award, a prize established by thr Korean Art Critics Association. And with his 22nd winner title in tow, he went on to hold his third solo exhibition at Moran Gallery.

The Seoknam award Jury(consisting of Lee Kyng-sung, Oh Kwang-soo, Yoon Woo-hak nd Yun Nam-jie)praised highly Yoo’s ability to continue the experimentation of painting through the means of a novel source. If that is indeed true, then it is worth considering. “What position does Yoo Seung-ho’s work hold within the history of painting that it retains such exceptional value?”

Although the objective of the Seoknam Award is purportedly to discover young artist with promising talent, in reality, it has tended to select from a small sphere of elite artist who are unable to escape from the tastes of a conservative, older generation. As such, the above question could be rephrsed in more forthright manner. “How is it possible that these vibrant pictures, alive with talent, were able to catch the past and present? Let’s pose the question again simple, black-and-white terms. Do Yoo Sueng –ho’s picture support the values of the future?

The various layers of his pictorial word images
“Shoo Shoo Shoo…Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo ShooShoo Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo…Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo Shoo…”
On a while piece of paper is a small, inky word written out by hand-“Shoo[?].” As it accumulates one by one, it begins to billow and swell. Within the billowy mass of characters, some start to disperse and drizzle downwards on the paper. As larger and smaller masses group together, they start to from singular, large landscape. This beautiful Scenery looks oddly familiar, like a mountain and water landscape painting seen somewhere before. While looking at Yoo’s mountain and water landscape painting, “Shoo-” (1999-2000) compiled from the wondrous strange gathering of thousands of characters, your curiosity is piqued: What exactly does this draw/spell out? The original basis of this painting is “Travelers among mountains and Streams” by the great Nor-them Song Dynasty (960-1127) painter Fan Kuan. It is fitting to say that Yoo’s picture is copied from the older painting. However, it is an unsatisfactory statement in terms of telling us why a young artist living today would choose to emulate an ancient painter’s master piece. Then, what is the essence that this picture has drawn forth? Let’s first uncover the this outer layers of this pictorial word image step-by-step.

In “Shoo-,” the Korean character “Shoo” is repeated endlessly to recreate the scenery of “Travels among Mountains and Streams.” During his second solo exhibition in 2000 at Seonam Art Center, Yoo said that “like rockets that shoot upward with he sound ‘Shoo,’ these mountains shoot up toward the sky.” And the artist’s impression that“ the mountains that appear in the scenery of ‘Travelers among Mountain and Stream ‘ seem to shoot up toward the sky” is clearly reflected in his work. Now let’s unravel these statements a little more. In order to help himself better understand the work, the artist created an explanatory drawing, where he took the image of a space shuttle launch from an American comic book, erased the unnecessary pats and drew in the words “shooooo.” (Initially, he first became interested in the word “shoo” after looking at the comic book series “Dragon ball Z,” and he said that a mimetic onomatopoeia drawing seen in the comic book reminded him of a rocket launch scene.) So, “shoo” is a mimetic onomatopoeia take from the sound of a launched rocket as it shoots up into the sky, and from shape of bursting flames and ignition smoke. If that is the case, then it appears that Yoo’s work is a masterpiece copied from the deafening boom and exhaust fumes of a rocket. Furthermore, as an image created by writing out thousands of characters by hand, it is possible to read the work as “thoughts and a single mimetic onomatopoeia.” Then what kinds of issue are related to his method of transposing exiting works through certain mimetic onomatopoeias?

First off, since this kind of work is derived from comic book images, it is connected to the various mimetic onomatopoeia drawings that appear in comics. Readers engrossed in comic books easily overlook the onomatopoeia and mimetic words that appear on each page, but in fact, without this words, it would be nearly impossible to realize the drama – turgy of the comic book. For example, Let’s say that there is a scene of a ball floating slightly in midair. If there were no onomatopoeia, it would be difficult to glean the meaning of the picture, but if the onomatopoeia “boing-boing” is written, it allows for one to conjecture that the ball is bouncing, and that there was someone who bounced the ball just a moment age.

Whole movies and animation can show movement through successive, continuous scene, comics are more limited in that they must depend upon the usage of still picture to convey movement. The way that comics defeat this limitation is through the ingenious scheme of exaggerated mimetic onomatopoeia and speech bubbles, which can go so far as to express the movement of thought. Thus, just the fact that the artist highlighted mimetic onomatopoeias by extracting them from their sequential context makes for a fascinating anecdote. Captivated by mimetic onomatopoeia images, the artist reused only the mimetic onomatopoeias, which play an essential role that is seemingly non- essential in comics, to construct a singular image. If you look at it in a certain way, the artist bestowed upon these mimetic onomatopoeias, neglected for so long in the comics, a completely new status and power. However, his images are not only related to comics. His mimetic onomatopoeia pictorial images are, strangely enough also linked to issue in traditional painting theory.

Indicating that resonance [sound] becomes from [shape], and form in turn becomes spirit [a higher form]
Once of most important evaluation standards in Eastern painting is “breath-resonance, life-motion.”(2) In the book, “The Classified Record of Ancient Painters,” or Gu hua pin lu, the southern Qi Dynasty(479-502) portrait painter Xie He wrote on a theory of aesthetics known as the six principles.(3) Among the “six principles that had to be followed when creating a painting” that he set forth, the first principle was “breath-resonance, life-motion” However, because Xie He did not leave any extensive explanations, “breath-resonance, life-motion” remained for quite some time as simply an obscure statement. This principle would be reborn as a more orthodox aesthetic theory with the arrival of the Tang Dynasty(618-906). Zhang Yanyuan, who authored “A Record of Famous Paintings from throughout History,” of Lidai minhuaji, wrote that “If a painter seeks only ‘breath-resonance’ in painting, ‘form-likeness’ will naturally be present in his work,”(4) and thus he redefined “breath-resonance, life-motion” in terms of an aesthetic value based on the relationship between structure and force. Namely, he bestowed higher value upon the vital forces of energies that brought life to these forms, instead of to the phenomena visible to the eye. And with this, a deep-rooted dilemma emerged within painting. To paint some-thing visible before the eye, yet imbue it with invisible value. And to make the seers of the painting see the unseen through the seen. Perhaps this is why “breath-resonance, life-motion” still remains a concept that is difficult to grasp and one that is frequently mis-construed. In particular, “breath-resonance,” rather than “life-motion,” is largely the source of misunderstandings.

Today, many people mistakenly think of “breath-resonance” as a single term.(5) however, “breath”(6)and “resonance”(7) are two separate terms. Breath, or spirit, as is well known, refers to the connective energy immanent to all things on nature. However, the fact that “resonance” originally meant “harmonious sound and motion” is not as well known. (this might be because the painter Jing Hao, of the Five Dynasties Period (907-906), described resonance as “Rendering the shape of an object without leaving the marks of technical skill in a conspicuous manner, and endowing it with a grace that is not unrefined.”) the fact that from ancient times, sound and movement were utilized as criteria in the evaluation of paintings is extremely fascinating. Originally, according to art historians, “resonance” was first used in the literary tradition as a measure for judging the human character (separating the true men of virtue from the lesser ones), and within the corresponding cultures of calligraphy and the pictorial arts, this naturally came to be used as a standard in painting as well. In the tradition of portrait painting that preceded the emergence of mountain-and-water landscape paintings, “resonance” became commonly accepted as “the sound and rhythm felt in the picture,” and rather than being a form of physical impact, it was interpreted as “the reverberation of the spirit that must be felt through an interior sensation.” (When breath-resonance moves with life, it is said that spiritual communion is attained for the first time.)

Thus, in the tradition of Chinese painting, “breath” and “resonance” appeared as evaluation criteria that corresponded to “a state of mind that transcends beyond the line of the brush” in portrait paintings, and afterwards, beginning with mountain-and-water landscapes, came to be used in the discernment of all paintings. No matter in what painting, there is the concept of “breath-resonance” being in opposition to a “form-likeness” that attempts to depict the object as it is. In this case then, what is it that Yoo Seung-ho wishes to achieve by doing away with lines, and using instead diminutive brushstrokes of onomatopoeias/mimetic words/mimetic onomatopoeias in order to reproduce ancient masterpieces? Was it that he want-ed to resolve the lasting conflict between “form-likeness” and “breath-resonance” and the dilemma of conjuring the invisible from the visible?

The fact that many of Yoo’s pictures are formed from onomatopoeias/mimetic words/mimetic ono-matopoeias no doubt rests upon the attempt to draw the rhythm of sound and movement into the logic of his pictorial word images. His first uses “resonance(onomatopoeia/mimetic words/mimetic onmato-poeia characters)” to adopt a “form-likeness,” namely selecting an image, and through a repetitive writing process, he easily avoids the various problems related to the use of expressive forms that arise from using brush lines. And since he does not aim to hold onto a “form-likeness,” he succeeds in moving toward a “spiritual transference,: namely, attaining : breath that moves with life.” In the case of “Shoo,” the word : shoo” is repeatedly written on paper and the image of “Travelers among Mountains and Streams” is captured on the picture plane. However, because this is created through writing, it is not caught up within modern-day debates on reproduction modes. This is because he does no “paint” the picture. It is on this point that Yoo’s writing-paintings, as “charcter-figurations,” lie in opposition to the “character-abstractions” of Nam Kwan, Lee Ungno and other senior Korean modernist painters. The fact that Yoo attempts to break away from the historical shackles of form-likeness through writing makes his work comparable to the “ecriture” works of Park Seo-bo.

However, the gist of Yoo’s work lies in making the achieved “form” function again within an allegory of “breath,” and thus setting in motion the game of a multilayered image. Nevertheless, the artist does not repeat the folly of past generations by saying that he has painted the higher world of the spirit arising from a spiritual transference. In the traditional literary world, this higher world that a work of art had to capture also had to belong to the one painting the picture. Otherwise, this is like thinking that making the declaration, “ I am a true gentleman,” really turns you into one. Once the light of modernity swept over the insistence that one possessed an exceptional lofty spiritual world was limited to the worlds of art and religion. And after World War ?, it became increasingly difficult for that position to be maintained in the art world as well. Consequently, Yoo has installed meta-dimension image apparatuses onto the fixed value pints that the higher spiritual world should originally occupy. (He even inten-tionally plays the fool.) In the case of “Shoo,” the things that take up the position of the “higher world of spirit” are the following. First, the deafening sonic boom of the rocket. Second, the waves of an unreal elation provided by comics. Third the illuminating aura of the recreated masterpiece, “Travelers among Mountains and Streams,” that lies beyond the hazy and indistinct picture plane. Fourth, the fascinating blank spots of reinterpretation of the historical-Eastern painting form known as the hazy style. The last note being a bit of a complicated game, let us expound upon it a bit further.

Place your attention again upon the picture. The artist ended up copying the setting of “Travelers among Mountains and Streams,” yet he did not copy it meticulously. Why would he do such a thing? There must be a reason why it was done in such a hazy, vague manner, as if a fog had settled over the picture. Looking at it from an art historical per-spective, this could be read in terms of a revival of the “vague style.” What exactly is this “vague style?”First, let’s briefly take a look at its history.

The vague style, and its multilayered propagation
As a style that does not employ contours or clear outlines, the “vague” or “hazy” style is a method of utilizing “rice-point” and color gradation tech-niques, etc. as a means of depicting air and light. The style had its origins in a new style of painting initiated by Yokoyama Taikan (1863-1958) and Hishida Shunso (1874-1911) and other proponents of the second generation of Nihonga, or new Japanese painting. However, Japanese critics at the time denounced the hazy or vague style, or morotai, saying that this new change in Nihonga was the result of Western influences. Because it appears that Japanese painting accepted the critical attitude of the Impre-ssionists, not a few Japanese feared that the unique qualities of Japanese painting would disappear. The term that came to be known as the “vague style,” like Impressionism, arose from the sarcastic commentary of the times. Initially, “vague style” suggested “anunclearly equivocating painting.” (“Vague” was derived from the “vague or shady driver,” rickshaw drivers who would intentionally drive around and around in the same location in order to make a bigger profit.) Perhaps due to this critical atmosphere, the vague style did not last for very long in Japan. Where the vague style truly lasted was in colonial Korea.

Through Korean artists like Cheongjeon Lee Sangbeom (1897-1972) and others, the vague painting style underwent various transformations, eventually becoming a new tradition in Korean painting circles. Because the vague painting technique still remains influential in Korean university curricula, it is still raised as a contentious issue every now and then. Leftist theorists with nationalistic tendencies have cited the vague style of painting as one of the reasons for deeming Cheongjeon and other modernist Korean painters as pro-Japanese artist. In other word, not only are the traces of the artist’s pro-Japanese activities problematic, but so are paintings done in the Nihonga style was simply the result of inheriting the “rice-point” painting technique that Cyeomje Jeong Seon(1676-1759) and other Joseon Dynasty painters so enjoyed using, and was a style that had originated with the Northern Song Dynasty painter and calligrapher Mifu and his son Miyujen. However, it is undeniable that this artist who claimed to make full use of “the most Korean of painting styles” was in fact highly influenced by Japanese painting circles. Then is it really the case that his works are nothing more than anti-nationalist, pro-Japanese paintings? The answer is an assertive “no.” There is a difference in kind between pro-Japanese acts of treason and the introduction of a new painting style, and the two should simply be discussed on separate term.

Perhaps because the notion of an Eastern art history had not yet been established at the time the second generation of Nihonga painters were active, the reigning criticism at the time., that the new painting style was nothing more than a form of Western painting, could not be refuse from a historically authoritative standpoint. If the leading artist had grasped the hazy paintings of the Northern Song Dynasty at the time, then they would have undoubtedly acknowledged painters like Fan Kuan, Guo Xi, Mifu and Miyujen, and could have asserted that their own vague style was not a form of Western painting but rather a kind of pan-Asian experimentation that already had a historical precedent. However, the principal members if the second generation of Nihonga, Yokoyama Daikan and Hishida Shunso, Could not persist in the vague style. Afterwards, through repetitive art expositions, the thought that “Japanese art is after all, flat and linear” gained pro-minence, and accordingly, modern Japanese art became even more exoticized and “other-ed” and eventually fell to the status of naïve, decorative pieces of a “regional art” nature. It is a sad thing to note, but Cheongjeon Lee Sang-beom was not far from the same track. In his younger days, Lee Sang-beom was enshrined as an experimental artist who introduced plein-air experiments to traditional painting, yet gradually, as a result of being excluded from an art world that was placing increasing importance on “real Korean-ness,” he became an artist who made the same conservative paintings over and over again, which also became works that showed off native, Korean “regional art.” After Korean Independence (1945) and as soon as he became distanced from Japan’s sphere of influence, his experimental spirit was greatly reduced. And thus, the hazy style remained a long-kept secret for the artist.

It is difficult to believe that Lee, who during his youth could not have been formally educated in Eastern art history, given that such an education system arose only in the post0war period, kept in mind Mifu and Miyujen all the while he continued to create his experiments in form. In contrast to the Chinese artist Li Korean, who introduced the principles of a Western-style pictorial composition to Chinese painting, and who was at that time unique in constructing picture planes from architectural forms, Lee Sang-beom kept repeating the problematic aspects of his early Impressionistic stance n a detrimental way, which lead his works in a “Korean national icon” direction and eventually led to their downfall. Basically, he is not the most Korean painter, nor is he the head of an anti-nationalist, pro-Japanese school of painting. (According to research done over the years, it appears that he did sort of commit some pro-Japanese activities. However, it is problematic to use that evidence to condemn all of his works as ”pro-Japanese paintings.”) Rather, it is that his works, which were initially significant experiments in painting forms, became sacrificed in order to vindicate a degraded sense of national value that was again on the rise after Korean Independence. Thus, I believe that it is difficult to disparage of the art historical value that his earlier works possess.

In any case, thanks to Cheongjeon Lee Sang-beom and the first modern artists, the vague style did not completely disappear from Korea. Even today, in painting groups and art schools in Korea, a Korean version of the vague style can be found. And the aged artists who adhere to the vague style speak, almost without exception, as if Northern Song Dynasty paintings were the real starting point of their critical inquiries. Whether or not this is true, this is an extremely fascinating point. For, even an artist like Yoo, who was educated in the Western painting tradition, for some reason or another, began to pay attention to Northern Song Dynasty paintings. It is probably not the case that Yoo consciously made the historical problems of the hazy style the main issue of his paintings. However, they match up perfectly. When he reproduces a traditional painting upon the picture plane, the naturally billowing picture reveals, like the essence of the vague style, that certain something that exists beyond the air. Thus, for a person who has a basic knowledge of Eastern painting history, this would instinctively give rise to the issued surrounding the vague style on the second generating artists of the Nihonga school who were the style’s originators, and this would in turn remind one of the attempts of painters who, in order to escape being associated with the style’s Japanese roots, indicated the Northern Song Dynasty as the starting point of their critical inquiries. Yet the fact that Yoo first picked out Fan Kuan’s “Travelers among Mountains and Streams” out of all other traditional paintings seems to e an extremely remarkable coincidence. There’s no other way to explain it, save for it being a result of an artistic instinct. Up until now, we have looked at Yoo’s artistic world through his representative work “Shoo.” Now let examine how these kinds of works were started and how he arrived at where he is today.

The beginnings and development of his work
The majority of Yoo’s early student work focused on portraiture, excluding the Childish Heart series (1993) and a series of colorful oil paintings done from comics(1993). (In the Childish Heart series, the works seem to ply off of the similar-sounding Korean words for a “childish or innocent heart” and “concentric circles.” This work is important in that the florescent paint used in later works appears as a metaphor in these earlier pieces.) Most of his early portrait paintings somehow recall African images, but also look cute because of their oddly comical and naïve qualities. What appear amidst countless sketches and studies are faces that fill up entire picture planes, which spill forth from thousands of linear marks. The fact that these studies, where transformed faces are found amidst scattered strokes formed from repeated coarse markings, bear a direct relationship to his full-scale works is intriguing. For these rough marks became points in 1997. In the drawings where he made pen strokes short enough to look like he had just pricked the paper, he depicted the shape of a hand, foot and face, all faintly scattered about an dispersed among he strokes. Some of these drawings are currently in the process of being recreated on canvas. Next to these dispersing drawings, he placed the following notes: Soo(?): number/ Soo(?): water/ Soo (?): embroidery/ Cheon(?): brook/Soo(?) breath of life/Soo(?):hand/ Oooh-soo-soo-soo(????)look at them fall, the scattered leaves, the tears.” Thus, his full-scale works had come to life.

The short strokes drizzling down in these paintings soon evolved into words and color points. It is an interesting fact that the color-point paintings and word-based paintings were initiated at the same time. Among his point-based images, he created the shape of a face using tiny points of pink florescent paint on a blue background in “An Eye”(1997); recreated a section of Roy Lichtenstein’s of a brush touch with “Lichtenstein’s Constellation” (1997); at times the point-based works can resemble hazy mist, as in “Goosebumps” (1997); or sometimes points are used to copy his own drawings, as in “doggy…”(1998). In contrast to his point-based works, his word paintings all began without color. In “Oh So Scared”(1997), the statement “Of So Scared” is used to draw out what resembles the steep ridgeline of a mountain, and this piece is significant as the departure point for all of his subsequent word-based works. The first work where he began developing richer features than just word images was “Slowly Flowing” (1998), where the word “slowly” was repeated along a strange line where the word would cluster together and then fall apart. The diagram-like composition of the picture, as well as the John Cage-esque wordplay that takes place is interesting. If you gaze at the work, the sense of water flowing down a brook seems to overlap with the sense of drawing something slowly capture in the title of the work. These in turn link to the sound of laughter spreading across the picture, emitted by an idiot (or artist) who must tediously perform the same work, it is a strange work of art.

After this, a tire some, punishing body of work was produced at full force. Whereas in “Yoo~hoo”(1998), characters (“?-?[ya-ho]”) first ook on the shape of a mountain-and-water landscape painting, with “Shoo-“ he began to reproduce ancient masterpieces. In ”Yong, Yong, Betcha Can’t Take It “ (1999), a piece that is suffused with an ardent comicalness, the words “yong, yong” buzz around like a swarm of bees to sug-gest the shape of two dragons, and in the piece “A Spring Breeze – How Should I Love You Now”(1999) the title statement is drawn in a way that evokes a gently passing spring breeze, as the artist intentionally parodies Lee U-fan’s Monoha work, His wordplay continued with works like “Amsan- Rock Mountain? Mental Math?, “ where simple calculations combining Arabic numerals and math symbols like “1+1=? 2+4=? 5+9=?...” were used to create the low ridge of a mountain. Erotic works have also been created. In “Bashful Apple”(1999), a color point work, an abstract interpretation of male and female genitals seem to vaguely emerge and disappear, and in :Eoheung-Once Upon a Time” (1999), an ambiguously emerging image appears somewhere between abstract-like specks and a landscape. (It is possible to compare this work with that of Yoo’s former professor, artist Moon Beom. However, it seems that the work’s overall influence comes from Hong Myeong-seop, also a former professor.) The point-based work, “Eoheung-Once Upon a Time” was later adapted into a word-based work with “Oh So Scared” (2001-2002). “Oh So Scared” also contains an ambiguous moment where drawing (writing) halts somewhere between abstract spots an a more concrete landscape. As previously mentioned, he began to incorporate ancient masterpieces after “Shoo-“ (1999-2000), and works like “Push, and Let Go Here”(2000) dealt with Guo Xi’s “Early Spring”(1072), and it appears that “Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land” (1447) by the early Joseon Dynasty painter An Gyeon, who was influenced by Guo Xi, will play a part in his works in the future. (On a wall in Yoo’s studio is a Xerox of An Gyeon’s painting.)

On the other hand, the major modern painter Willem De Kooning’s portraits are also in his pictures. Of course, it is not the first time that modern artists have been featured, since Lichtenstein and Lee Ufan have also appeared, but somewhat differently, De Kooning’s paintings dominate entire picture planes, and these works deal with more difficult issues of surface. Using the character “Euh-shi “ to transcribe “Woman I,” (1950-1952) the souce of De Kooning’s representative Woman series, Yoo’s “Euh-shi”(2002-2003) contains the same critical examinations found in his earliest sketches-“inquiring into the method of turning the ubiquity of a stroke that fills the entire picture into something that allows for the emergence of the shape if the body.” And the fact that he chooses to repeat this method’s historically original form is extremely fascinating. It is also significant that De Kooning’s charcoal piece, “Monumental Woman” was the first piece where De Kooning began to dismantle his Woman series within and abstract expressionist landscape, instead of taking them in the direction of monumental figurative works. This makes “Monumental Woman” an important turning point in De Kooning’s work. Yoo’s recent work, “Egg Money” (2004), features De Kooning’s : Woman”(1952-53), while De Kooning’s Woman V”(1952-53),his best known work, is currently in the process of being used for a new piece. If you divide Yoo’s work into point-based and word-based ones, it is possible to organize them further. First , the word pictures are divided into his experiments with wordplay where he creates new images; those where e has copied his own works; copies of ancient classic masterpieces; copies of famous modern paintings; installations; and figurative works. There are also newly created images; copies of his own work; and copies of famous modern paintings. Because of he heated interst in his word-based paintings and their subsequent favourable reception, these are in the process of being created at a relatively quick pace with a variety of developments. “Bzzz….”(2002) and “Eye Candy” are taped to a wall in his studio and are two are extremely humorous pieces that utilize ordinary spaces, and “Ooh-gee-gee-geek”(2002) as the sole three-dimensional work, is an experimental piece that is expected to undergo variations. His first wall installation “Bzzz,” which appears to have derived from work in his studio, was created with just one week’s worth of work, and was later continued with “Ung, Ung , Now the Tears Don’t Come,” (2004). (“Ung, Ung” is the first work where words were used to create other words. It is possible to read the 1999 piece “Sprawled on the Ground” as a word, but it is an ambiguous piece that could also e seen as the shape of a person. In the 2000 piece “Drrrrip,” the painter’s seal has also been constructed from words, but it is not quite in a legible state. Thus it is possible to see “Ung, Ung” as the sole typographic-like work where words are used to create other words.) The color point-based works are relatively simple, compared to the more diversified word works. It appears that because they have not received as much attention, they have not been developed or produced at the same rate. The interesting thing is that the two types of work mutually influence each other. Some word-based works are almost identical to the point- based works they have not received as much attention, they have not been developed or produced at he same rate. The interesting thing is that the two types of work mutually influence each other. Some word-based works are almost identical to the point-based works they have been adapted from(“Oh So Scared,” from 2001-2002, is coped from the 1999 piece “Eoheung- Once Upon a Time”), and at other times, point works take on aspects of the writing works, sometimes forming mountain-and-water landscapes (an “Untitled” series from 2003 done on aluminium panel).

New Discoveries
It is difficult to surmise how the visually and logically beautiful works of Yoo Seung-ho will change and develop in the future, but in any case, it is clear that they are in the process of becoming enlarged. Presently, this is because works based on the paintings of Fan Kuan and Guo Xi are being redone on a larger scale. Hw will thee kinds of pictures be received by society, and in turn, how will that reaction affect the artist? Several questions can be asked. The existential questions asked by his furst portrait paintings, or the frenzied bacchanalia of his linguistically playful word and point works perhaps, after all, link back to the early death of the artist’s father, and his subsequent absence in the artist’s life. Such things as the family photograph of the artist’s single mother with er six children located on the first page of his portfolio, or the working note written by the artist that states “ I am certain that I have a father within me. But it’s possible that I don’t know who or what that father is,” undoubtedly reveal aspects of this kind of psychological game at work.

However, the artist has recently become a father, and what kind of influence will this actually have on his work? The artist’s idiot alter-ego, who seems to have closely read the “fools’ manual” and followed the “fool’s secret to a successful life,” can he continue on this “idiot’s path” in the future? And what if the hard times end and the good times begin? According to “the fool’s manual,” it is a difficult thing to play the fool, and if that is the case, will it be possible for the artist to continue the pretense of being an idiot? Notwithstanding everything else, it is certain that there will come a time when Joseon Dynasty master paintings will appear in his work. However, the human Yoo Seung-ho is yet young, so it’s taboo to make any awkward predictions. So instead of a conclusion, I will instead introduce recent research results that may offer a new way of interpreting his work.

The cognitive scientist Han Jong-hye recently presented a dissertation called “ Neuroanatomical Analysis for Onomatopoeia : fMRI Study” (at the “16th Korean Language Cognition Conference,” Oct, 8-9, 2004, organized by the Korea Information Science Society for Cognitive Science). Although I am not in the position to determine the accuracy of the study, its initial results are extremely intriguing. While Dr. Han’s research team took images of the brain, they used a computer screen to show samples of onomatopoeias to the subjects of the study. Research results showed activity in the cerebellum and the left middle and superior temporal gyrus(BA41,BA42), parts that are in charge of processing sounds from the outside world and aural information, and fascinatingly enough, also showed activity in the fusiform gyrus (BA47), a part of the brain that plays a pivotal role in face recognition.

The region known as the fusiform gyrus possesses the function of facial recognition, and as such, if it is damaged, then even if one sees a face, he brain cannot recognize as a result of the symptoms of a “facial recognition lass.” (On the other hand, if the area in the central part of the brain known as the amygdala becomes damaged, then recognizing individual faces does not pose a problem, but it is possible that facial expressions can no longer be recognized. The neuroscientist Semir Zeki designated these types of people as being “Vultanopsia,” which means “impression bind”). Thus, the fact that onomatopoeias activate the fusiform gyrus area could be a very suggestive thing for Yoo, as an artist who draws out bodily shapes from mimetic onomatopoeias. This is because his work has the possibility of doublng the activation effect in the fusiform gyrus are. And that is not all. The fact that the area in charge of processing sound information, as well as the cortices in the cerebrum, which are related to motor skills, is activated, perhaps signifies that the brain recognizes onomatopoeias as being connected to movement. Namely, this means that the human brain can be reminded of movement with just a single onomatopoeia, if that is the case, then the various drawings of Yoo that express motion are, on another layer, emphasizing motion again, and what if sound was turned on? That probably wouldn’t do much to double the pleasure of the pictures. Because just by looking at the characters, the human brain is already activating the porting of the brain in charge of processing sounds, It may be the case that at some point in time, Yoo’s work will have to be used as the subject of an fMRI study. It’s intriguing to imagine the results of such a stud, but even the evidence on hand is enough to cast his work in a new light. By using language alone, his works activate the fusiform gyrus, and his works give that region another jolt with the figurative forms that are associated with the face ( or perhaps in recerse order). Imagine how pleased viewers’ brains must be!

Postscript) A couple of interesting facts: The materials of Yoo Seung-ho’s word works are paper (mostly Hanji, or Korean mulberry paper) and Rotring drawing pens, which are similar in substance to India ink. For one cartridge used in a Rotring pen, approximately one picture that is anywhere from 70cm by 60cm to 90cm by 70cm in size can be created. “Eye Candy” was created solely from a Re color Rotring pen.