“A mountain work with boldness and memories”

‘Blue Mountain’ by energy-gathered ‘artist Choo Mi-sil’ 홍기인 기자l승인2023.03.21l수정2023.03.21 14:29

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36~24, Cheongganggachang-ro, Baekam-myeon, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do. This is A-Tech Co., Ltd., a place where Sojung Choo Mi-sil (68), an artist, runs a business with her husband and works in one space. Choo mainly works on ‘mountain’ and welcomes guests who visit here from time to time. She warmly revives the simple mountain with her own way of expressing a shimmering blue light. At first glance, the non-figurative figure seems rough like a male work, but it is praised for its spirit and boldness that revive with intensity. So called ‘Blue Mountain’ series. I met a certain artist who puts all her energy into painting a mighty mountain and tried to capture the trend of her work and the stories surrounding it. 

 

Boldness exuding with intensity, ‘Mountain’ that evokes faint memories 

Choo said, “When I draw a mountain, at some point I myself can find a story of memories in that magnificent mountain.” She is an honest artist who draws mountains. It is her heart to appreciate the beauty of nature itself and to express it naturally. She said, “Mountains are beautiful just where they are. When I draw a mountain like this, sometimes I have to be simple, and sometimes there are moments when I need to add lines. I become infinitely humble in front of nature.” Her representative works include famous Korean mountains such as ‘Mt. Baekdu’, ‘Mt. Seorak’, ‘Mt. Jiri’, ‘Beyond the Mountain’, ‘There is a Story in the Mountains’, ‘Mountain at Sunset’, ‘Mountain Cleared by Fog’, ‘Immersed in the Ridge’ and ‘Sanasanah’. There are ‘Mountains in Korea’, ‘Jisatge in Jeju Island’, ‘Gubongsan Mountain in front of red regulation’, ‘Snow Mountain’ and ‘Dream of Shangri-La’. She does not care whether it is a famous mountain in Korea, a nearby mountain, or a foreign mountain. The green mountain has become her symbol over the past 12 years. The blue light of her work doubles in beauty as time goes by. This is because the painting becomes brighter as the blue color is added. This kind of painting made a big inflection point in her life. Ten years ago, while on a trip to Los Angeles, she accidentally left several pieces of art in a gallery, and all of them were sold out, causing a sensation. ‘Mountain’, which was painted in blue, soothed the nostalgia of Koreans and became a popular work. At the time, the Koreans were thrilled, saying, “Our mountains, which seemed to be forgotten, made us immersed in memories as if it unfolded before our eyes when we opened the window.” She said, “When I heard that it was sold out, I was confused and felt something ringing in my chest. Before, I mainly drew realism works.” This motivated her to become a full-time artist who only draws ‘mountains’. She said that when she draws a mountain, she pours all her energy into it. “Even when I draw a single line, I am conscious of trying to draw strong on purpose. When I paint, I use all my strength. That way you can feel the intensity of the mountain. The mountain is large, but the work process is not easy. It takes a lot of effort because you have to draw the ridge and paint over it several times to express the spirit of the ‘mountain’.” A few years ago, an acquaintance who saw her work in her solo exhibition challenged herself to draw a mountain, but it was not easy to express the mountain’s ridge and it was too much effort, so she gave up. It takes an enormous amount of energy to express a mighty mountain. Contrary to appearances, this task is not easy.

 

When I was young, I was guided by my mother’s colleague teacher and ‘bloomed my talent’

At the age of 5, Choo showed extraordinary powers of observation to the extent that she expressed even the smallest points of eyebrows on a human face. His mother, who was a teacher, saw her like this and took her to a fellow art teacher to show the picture, and the art teacher became her first teacher. She was active in an art class throughout her school days, and as her father wished, she entered a women’s college and majored in art. Even after marrying her husband, who majored in agricultural chemistry at Seoul National University and served as a chemistry officer, she continued to paint. And she ran a R&D company in Yongin with her husband. In her restless routine, her husband has been the best colleague. When traveling, her husband took pictures and she sketched beside her. Her husband, who was on a business trip, handed over the collected materials to her, and she made a work based on them. At one occasion, she accidentally stopped by LA where her husband’s acquaintances lived. She left her work and became popular among the locals. There are other episodes. A young woman went back to look at the picture alone every day in her solo exhibition. Curious, she asked, “Why do you come looking at my paintings again and again?” 

The woman said, “I’m in trouble at home, but when I come here and see your work, I feel much more at ease.” Choo gave the painting, saying, “I charge a high price for the buyer, but you seem to really need this painting, so just take it.” The woman was so grateful that she could not help it. Compared to her age, she has not held many solo exhibitions. The reason was that although she lived with painting for a long time, she spent a busy time running a company with her husband. In August 2021, she held her first solo exhibition, “Blue Mountain,” at the K-Art Cooperative Cafe in Yongin City, with the work completed under the advice and guidance of artist Shin Chang-ho. This was her first solo exhibition. In line with this, the works that have been cultivated for a long time have been displayed in various places and added to the light. 

 

‘Jeokgyujae’, accumulated merit through the couple’s unison and vows

When the moon rises over the mountain, a traditional hanok looks like there will be a taster looking at the lake and reciting a poem with a glass of wine. This hanok, located on 913 Iwon-ro, Wonsam-myeon, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, is a house named Jeokgyujae where the painter couple stays. The name was given by their son studying philosophy. Its meaning is to take half a step and finally achieve something big. The house is standing in a large yard at the foot of Munsusan Mountain and looking at the Gochogol Reservoir. It has already been 10 years since the couple made their nest in the hanok built by the Daemokjang, a cultural asset. The blue dragon on the left, the white tiger on the right, mountains on the back and a river in the front makes it a good place. The place is wrapped in a comfortable mountain landscape and looks like a mother’s warm embrace. The mountains and the clear water here seem to be the perfect resting place for the couple. The hanok, which resembles the heart of the owner, is dyed in the sunset light and creates a subtle elegance. Her husband treats visiting guests with alcohol made with pure water from Munsusan. He is a self-made man with his sincerity. This liquor, called Gochogol Cheongju, is refreshingly wrapped around the tongue at 18 degrees, and the taste is also excellent. In addition to the fresh air, this house has two dogs running around, pine trees that create a large shade in summer, and a low bamboo forest, adding to the taste. In the spacious area right next to the door, many acquaintances of the couple visit to enjoy nature together and sometimes hold concerts. Although they are rich on the inside, they are both very easy-going people on the outside. I wonder if it is a gift of merit accumulated by a Buddhist couple who understand art, empty their minds, and make a vow. Currently, she is immersed in the work of ‘Blue Mountain’ along with participating in the Yongin Art Exhibition, the Songyeon Art Exhibition, and the Winter Artist Exhibition, going back and forth between her hanok home and her studio. 


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