Prof. Koang-Sik Chon*
When I met Purume Hong ten years ago, there was a small river of salvation flowing in her paintings. When I saw her works five years ago, I saw in them strong waterfalls of grace. Now, as I stand in front of her masterpieces, I witness the extensive ocean of healing. She began with brooklet flowing down from deep in the mountains, passed by a waterfall and a meandering river, and now reached the extensive ocean. Why did I forget about her? Her overwhelming world of paintings has left me no choice but to use new rhetorics in the history of art.
First of all, the paintings of Purume Hong are based on indian- ink simplism
When one approaches the outward appearance of an object through experiential observation, the object’s detailed content and complexity are exposed, but when one approaches the object based on internal observation, its existence is viewed as a single mass. Cubism involved describing each object in geometric form. In contrast, Purume Hong describes a group of objects as a single, large mass. Oil paintings or wash drawings can be used to effectively describe the detailed colors or shapes of objects. To provide a simple representation of objects, a blank- and- white ink- and- wash painting is possible and also the most suitable. The artist adjusts the degree of darkness for an appropriate description of the details and boundaries of the groups of objects.
All of the objects flow down from top to bottom, either in a thick straight line or a thick oblique line, and are standing strong as if they were stuck in the ground. The thick, vertical forms of objects deliver a sense of solemnness and magnificence. The created objects are like a mountain, forest, village, or house. All are connected through overlay or lines in the bottom. The paintings of Purume Hong are not abstract paintings, but always have the world of nature or the world of daily life in their background. In her works, she addresses the matter of the world of nature or life and the existence of mankind in the world.
Second, the paintings of Purume Hong are based on orientalistic empticism.
In general, the space that remains after a painting is filled up with objects is empty space.
This empty space shows the absence and lack of an existence. On Purume Hong’s canvas, however, the objects make an appearance in order to create the empty space. For this reason, objects are located on the sides, and there is an empty space in the center. The central location of the empty space delivers a sense of coziness and tranquility, as well as centrality. The empty space in the center is like large main road, square, large river, or lake.
The placement of objects on the right and left may easily create a closed atmosphere, but the closed, confined image is overcome by removing boundaries in the center. The distant view in the center is open and unobstructed, creating a boundless horizon and making a connection with skies. This connection is made blurry, as if there were a fog, thus creating a fantastic or hallucinative ambiance. Such a connection between the land and the skies, the earth and the heavens, and the finite and the infinite serves as a means to assign spiritual significance to the works.
The space in the center hints at the divine nature of emptiness, going beyond the beauty of an empty space, just like poverty in the mind. This space becomes bigger in proportion to the artist’s career. It signifies further expansion of the world of healing and grace from God.
Third, the paintings of Purume Hong are based on spiritual luminism.
The space in the center is not really a space of emptiness but a space of filling up. This space is different from the space on the right and left borders in that it is not intended from the space on the right and left borders in that it is not intended for experiential and internal objects. It is filled up with transcendental, heavenly things. The artist seeks to fill up the central space with white, bright light that originates from the top, in contrast to the black and gray objects on the right and left. Light comes from above, in addition to all good things as indicated by the proverb,” All good things come from above” (Alles Gute kommt von oben). This light is different from the light featured in the works of 19th century French impressionists and American illuminists in that the light is not natural light such as sunlight or moonlight. The light is a divine light from heaven. The light in the works of Purume Hong is the light of grace(lumen gratiae) from heaven, rather than light of nature(lumen naturae).
A close look at the light reveals that the color is not the milky or snowy white color showcased by Korea’s white porcelain jars, but is another type of white color- luminant white. The light, in luminant white color, signifies rays of healing that shed light on darkness and heal dark things. The light is the light of salvation, pardon, and grace. It is the “sun of righteousness with healing in its wings” referred to in the book Malachi 4:4. It is the strong light that momentarily blinded Saul before his conversion into Pail in Damascus. It is like the bright light of heaven.
Through this light in the center, the artist guides spectators to heaven, going past the chaotic, dark world of life in the right and left. The artist invites all to the world of heaven, along the path of light that connects the ground and the heavens. She especially invites spirits that roamed in darkness.
From Hongqiao International Airport on September 26, 2010
*After studying classical philosophy, theology, and aesthetics at Germany’s University of Regensburg, LMU Munchen, Britain’s University of Oxford, and America’s Harvard University, Chon now serves as President , professor at Kosin University and the chief director of the Eagle Christian School. Chon is also the author of <All Landscapes in the World> (Hakgojae, 2010), which is about landscape paintings.