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We define monotonous, flat, and repetitive phenomena as 'everyday routine'. Yoo Geun-Taek's brush and its dependency on 'everyday routine' has been a consistent discourse. However, it seems little difficult to define his recent painting within the frame of 'everyday routine'. His new series goes beyond routine subjects and tries to make a resonance between scenes and events.
Despite a little disparity among art critics, everyday routine appearing in Yoo's painting can be categorized as an assemblage of the artist's thoughts and desires to get closer to reality rather than as mere historical awareness. Rereading Yoo should be initiated from a critical attempt to escape from his previous stance as an onlooker of everyday life. With a sensitive tentacle, he is destined to observe, interpret and draw fragments of everyday scenery.
Yoo's painting has shown tremendous changes in brushstroke technique since late 1990s. Brisk and short brushstrokes in his recent 5 years make a sharp contrast with his previous tough and long strokes. The refined thick lines of traditional Korean ink, in his first solo exhibition in 1991 indicate that his style is firmly based on realist depiction. The painting in this period captured the overall impression of the silhouette of the subject with thick lines. The rough and masculine strokes, in his 1994 solo exhibition in Gumho Art Museum, depicted historical scenes through trivial everyday events. At that time, Yoo resurrected simple but strong brushstrokes of oriental painting in his woodcut print series, while showing realistic painting at the same time.


The 10-meter monumental painting 'The Blind Leading The Blind', in his 1999 solo exhibition in Wonseo Gallery, showed the culmination of technique and matured historical awareness. Rough brushstrokes and vigorous composition with lines in traditional philosophy and technique became his trademark. Sadly, this ambitious painting couldn't maintain its magnitude in both size and seriousness. However, we cannot say his style in this period was regress or progress. Transition from gigantic scale to small trivia, from historical narrative to deviation from the past is an axis that explains the flow of his painting. The short and brisk strokes from his reclined brush soaked with ink and shell grinded white powder build a blurring contour lines around the subject in the deconstructive way. And this deconstructive way of brushstroke marks his typical style in the composition of the flat surface today.

The Scenery Outside the Window' in this exhibition is a series of landscape capturing figurative rhythm in the small woods of the front garden of an apartment block. Of course, the main subjects of the painting are branches and leaves, but pedestrians strolling a trail are turning a landscape into a scene with a certain event.
Yoo says, "I pay attention to a language generated from something between the subject and the artist." That is the power of painting, which is stronger than that of pictures on screens. His exploration for the narrative structure of painting beyond written language is a process of renewing the figure of an artist between scenes and incidents beyond routine experiences. Throughout his transition from historical heaviness to everyday trivia, from everyday routine to a narrative structure between scenes and events, artistic imaginations and fantasies become a cornerstone to be a real creative being.
After all, what he aimed at is to reveal the structure of his narration implicitly, confirming his own presence between the painting and the subject. Yoo is not an artist who explores and records daily experiences but one who captures daily experiences as part of his painterly journey and, furthermore, seizes the savor of incidents or scenes sent forth by places in specific circumstances among the routine. Therefore what is most important to the artist can be narrowed down to the embodiment of zeitgeist through everyday trivia.
As a painter, who especially inherits the legacy of the traditional painting, he belongs to the minor party of artists protesting artistically in this era. Protest against the era of new media, digital media, and mass media may be sufficiently realized simply by tenaciously sticking to the painting in the analogue way. With ink, brushes and paper.

For him, ink, paper, and brushes are just plain conditions of life. There is no reason to make them a fetish but the world does not go around like that. While painting of oil paint and on canvases, which used to be called Western painting in the past becomes generalized as painting, painting of paper, brushes, and ink, used to be called Oriental painting, still remains as Oriental or Korean painting. In this reason, in the circle of contemporary art, successors to traditional painting emphasize the seeking of aesthetics of Korean painting or Korean art. For the medium itself not only defines the artist's identity but it is closely related to the spiritual system of painting. Yoo's strength is that he is free from this distorted composition of the contemporary art. In that sense, he is simply a painter who has been going through the contemporary era rather than a Korean painter.

When defining Yoo Geun-Taek from the perspective that he is a painter of contemporary universality, he is an artist who dreams of deviations and fantasy rather than a painter who draws daily experiences. So far, we have confirmed that Yoo has been hovering between deviating scenes and incidents beyond every day. I have argued that, in the general term, every day, there are a few topics of stories that need to be looked in detail. They are things standing face to face as well as standing attached to each other, such as every day and scenes, every day and events, scenes and incidents, routine and deviations, and reality and fantasy. In the information systems and value structures evolving at a mind-boggling speed, it is quite daunting to measure the boundaries of every day and abnormality. By the same token, it must be impossible to classify the eye of the painter in a word, who hovers between scenes looking still but stirring and events looking still but evolving. Merely what we can make sure of is that Yoo's beautiful struggle to resolutely confront the darkness of tedious routine will reveal the zeitgeist, going beyond the bonds of every day. What we may await now is that he will dream of an artistic fantasy beyond every day, going over the state of deviations. Turning 40 soon, he must have far more things hidden under his sleeves yet to show.

By Gim Jun-Gi / Art Critic
Adapted and translated by Lee Dae-Hyung
 
 
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