Daily Research for the Essence

Kim Eun-young 
Art Theory, Lecturer at Hongik University 

          Many artists of today deal with everyday life in their work. The artists bring the still life and mundane landscape into the canvas and describe the sensational news and trivial stories about people they encounter in their daily life. Baik Soon Shil’s Dongdasong(東茶頌), a series of paintings she has created over 30 years, is also stemmed from her daily life. As its title ‘Ode to Tea’ implies, Baik’s paintings embody her everyday life particularly the daily routine of drinking tea and coffee that includes the appreciation of its philosophical meaning. She also explores the material characteristics of what she drinks and uses it as one of her artistic medium, all of which enables her to have different visual language from those of other artists who are focused on more sensual and fleeting aspects of life.


          Dongdasong is abstract painting. Organic forms in black and white are floating in brown, gold or grey brown background mostly with thick and rough texture. However, as the background reminds us of the earth or mud flat and the organic shapes of a bud, dry branch and seed, Dongdasong does not aim for formalism but conveys a very specific subject, the power of life in the earth. Baik is extending her interest in the trivial ordinary of drinking tea and coffee into Mother Nature where the tea leaves and coffee beans actually come from. Baik’s Dongdasong expresses the visual impression of the earth and its power that has created and nurtured living beings for thousands of years beyond the ever changing everyday life that has been shaken by political, economic and social change in human history.


          What contributes to Baik’s strong presence in the artworld as one of middle age artists is not only the fundamental issue she discusses in her work compared to the majority of contemporary artists slanted towards more transient experience and phenomena but also her earnest exploration of the materials. She consumes 90% of her working process to create the background. She blends a variety of materials and paints them on the canvas over and over again. She affixes small grains of volcanic rocks with layers of acrylics and oils to create rough texture and stains the plane with coffee extracts and water. This time consuming process makes the picture plane that seems like the face of the earth sometimes swirling and sometimes in calm state. As she drew with a branch lying on the ground when she was a kid, she completes the work by drawing simple forms and calligraphic touch.


          Ironically enough, after she moves to the countryside, less organic forms are found in her paintings. It seems like her environment that allows her to feel the scent and the touch of the earth, trees and flowers more strongly than before led her to more focus on the background to express invisible feelings of life than the drawing of natural forms she could see. Experimenting with the various medium from coffee, matt medium, volcanic rocks, acrylic, oil bar, stone power to plaster, Baik shows the canvases that disclose the vital look of the earth and its strong power of life with great integrity.


          Although she has devoted herself to sing the ode to the earth over 30 years, she still finds that she can create more variations on Mother Nature which has created life endlessly in a remarkably diverse way beyond our imagination. I fully expect to see her future work that will illuminate different look and nature of the earth based on her everyday life closer to the nature.