Seoul takes center stage in Choong-Hyun Roh's paintings , but there is none of the chaos or glamor of the modern metropolis. There are ambiguous urban landscapes devoid of sights and stories. The depicted landscape is unfamiliar, almost impossible to recognize. Starting from photographs taken during walks in various parts of the city. Roh manipulates the shape and color of these pictures with Photoshop, and use the doctored photos as the basis for his paintings. As a result, his works generally convey an overall atmosphere rather than a specific detail of incident.Read More
Roh started painting bleak landscapes of the Han River in 2004, and a sense of the bleakness has pervaded his works ever since. But the desolation is more mundane than harsh. His landscapes. whether of interiors or exteriors, emanate a dismal atmosphere full of concrete, rust, and dirt. Recent landscapes are routinely dominated by climatic phenomena such as rain and snow, the air saturated with a mood of solitude and confinement, as in his paintings of riverside parks, zoos, and sealed rooms, The works, based by they are on existing landscapes, are painted in perspective. Nonetheless, Roh's method seems to create a sense of flatness rather than depth, giving his non-abstract works a modernist element. Because his paintings focus on the middle distance, they lack the controlling and transcendental perspective inherent to distant landscapes, as well as their possessive serenity. Roh's preference for indistinct colors adds to the general ambiguity. Though not entirely achromatic, the paintings seem to be drained of colors.
Contemporary cities are typically bright, distinct, and glamorous. Roh's begins with a specific place in mind, but what emerges in the final works is a completely unrecognizable variation of the original location, representing the emptiness and desolation that the artist feels in the city. In Zari(2006), his exhibition of works inspired by the zoos in Seoul Grand Park and Children's Grand Park, toys are scattered around like props on a stage of some absurdist drama. As in his Han River landscapes. there is no visible protagonist. These landscapes of absence capture the internal sense of alienation and confinement produced by contemporary space, whilst embodying exteriors that only reinforce the mystifying quality of alienation. The exhibition Closed-Door Room(2009) extends the theme of alienation and confinement to the sociopolitical realm. The rooms remind us of prison cells of torture chambers, those unofficial domains of governmental authority where actions of often questionable legitimacy are secretly carried out. The rooms may be empty, but they are steeped in the repressive, stifling atmosphere of an increasingly conservative society.
In 2011, Roh returned to his bleak landscapes. Scenes of the city buried in snow or flooded by monsoon rain exemplify nature's ability to effortlessly overwhelm all manmade things. Yet even in a city overcome by natural forces, a desolate stillness pervades' At first glance, these recent additions may even appear lyrical, but their depiction of the destructive power of time to engulf and inundate everything surpasses the bleakness of his previous works.
Text courtesy Space Willing N Dealing.