Yong Jo Ji`s art is both sensual and spiritual. His richly complicated encaustic surfaces create a rippling, translucent scrim through which we view his colorful designs as if from a great distance of time and space. The designs themselves are mysterious, elemental, and profound, evoking a sort of landscapes of the spirit that’s both earthy and airy, often featuring shapes that might be religious icons or celestial bodies floating and orbiting each other, seeking (though not always finding) balance. There’s a longing for serenity, but there’s also a tension that comes from the constant collision of Yong Jo`s Korean heritage and his immersion in American life; he’s using his art, I think, to work through what it means to stand on both sides of this cultural fault line. The result is a beautiful and moving hybrid that spans the gap between West and East, material and ephemeral, body and soul.
Ji, a former Chicago artist now working in New York, produces luscious, almost edible-looking encaustic-and-oil paintings in which his Korean heritage merges (and sometimes collides) with his adopted American culture. In these paintings, visible at the Thomas Gathman Gallery, there’s a compelling tension in Ji’s struggle to reconcile his Buddhist precepts with the sensual materiality of his medium. Built around large orbiting masses suggestive of celestial bodies or religious icons, they’re portraits of a buoyant spirit tethered to the physical; their complicated sense of balance, glimpsed through the semi-translucent scrim of the wax, is at once fragile and profound.
The paintings of Yong Jo Ji evoke a vitality of spirit and life movement. The artist’s process creates a force sending off energy in different directions. With every mark he creates a new tension set up until the completed ideograph becomes” equilibrium of interacting forces”. His abstraction, rhythm and relationship of parts cannot be separated; every brush stroke is an intrical part of the design, the spirit which creates the part motivates the whole.
It is not idea, but feeling that confers upon his art. Whereas in prose (as in representational art), the representation of what is presented communicates our knowledge of sense or thought of the object; the abstract work of the artist is, instead, like poetry and music which expresses how the object effects us emotionally. The airy lightness of the art forms a lyrical quality evoking visual sounds that enliven the marks, colors and shapes into symbols of personal expression.
The work negotiates the interconnectedness of our contrasting experience of east, west, man and woman. Merging cavernous novas with subterranean planetary pathways, presenting us in their sand and wax with a rich textural material manipulation, coming together in an elaborate ritualistic process for mandalic mirrors of our existence.
“Ancient memories, a continuum of thought synthesized with Eastern and Western memories brought forward into this moment of time, underlies the vision of Jo Ji’s paintings.
The moment of actualization is at once autonomous and personal, sometimes an ethereal expression, sometimes monumental, but always leaving a tracing thread of memories in unimaginable infinite space. The brain’s semi-conscious state energizes eye patterns and hand movement on the painted surface affirming for the viewer a layered fourth dimension in man’s collective consciousness, a consciousness-expanding state that eludes explanation. Somehow our vision sifts through the underlying multi-layered calligraphic imagery and alerts the mind to something more encompassing. Something is in there that’s comforting, but beyond immediate human comprehension.
Jo Ji’s work comes from the indefinable soul and his expressed vision is unexplainable in our terms. The power of his painting is palpable and pulsating. We can feel the creative process. We can see layers of paint, contrasting textural elements, encaustic transparency and harmonic colors that engage our senses until we feel satisfied.”
Much of Yong Jo Ji’s art involves images that are expressions he feels during his moments engaged in the activity of layering and reworking of paint. His sensibilities embrace a beauty and grace whose quiescent simplicity form a lyricism of complex introspective thoughts and feelings. His private visions and insights emerge from a field of colors and markings that reflect the struggle and joy of a physical being nurtured by the rich culture of his Korean origin and inspired by his love for painting. He injects energy into the multiple layers of his painting’s surface creating a light force and compelling forms which make a connection with nature, the mind and the soul.