• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12515

    Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Sale)

    28 May 2016, Convention Hall

  • Lot 2

    CHOI SO-YOUNG (Korean, B. 1980)

    Snow Covered Landscape

    Price Realised  


    CHOI SO-YOUNG (Korean, B. 1980)
    Snow Covered Landscape
    signed, titled and inscribed in Korean; inscribed in '146 cm x 227.5 cm'; dated '2010' (on the reverse)
    denim on canvas
    227 x 146 cm. (89 3/8 x 57 1/2 in.)
    Executed in 2010

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    Choi So Young engages recycled denim to give texture and form in creating expansive cityscapes, while paying homage to her hometown. Snow Covered Landscape (Lot 2) invites a breath-taking view of the claustrophobic panorama of snow-covered buildings on the mountain and enlivening sky of Busan. The city's charm is heightened by the graceful subtleties of blue summoning a dreamy atmosphere, while lyrical imagination is unveiled by the rhythmic variation of diminutive architecture. The quixotic assembly of the city evokes a sense of appreciation that has inevitably become unconsciously monotonous by the banality of everyday life. Capturing a city in a distant, the work exudes tranquillity and poetical grandness.


    Landscape painting was developed in China from the 7th century A.D. In late Joseon Period in 17th century, ‘True-view’ landscape painting has evolved in Korea by breaking from the idealised Chinese -inspired Southern School painting tradition. On a similar vein, Choi So Young's use of denim is a striking departure from both pure ink-wash media of the east and oil painting of the west. Like her predecessor, Jeong Seon’s Geumgang Jeondo (Fig. 1), she abandoned the limitations of traditional pigments through her innovative use of a material. Choi, essentially part of a Korean artistic tradition that has been maintained for centuries, breathes new life to the impulse of past artists who also sought to advance beyond Chinese ink-wash landscapes. In Choi's own ‘True-view’ landscape painting, the truth of the artist's individualistic feelings fuses with that of the objective scene: her choice of familiar subjects from her hometown reveals a depth of feeling and a way of melding external forms with subjective perceptions, expressing the uniquely Korean inspiration, creative energy, and the ethos of Korean people.


    Choi ingeniously builds up strikingly three-dimensional architectural forms from the dark and light tannin dyes in her denim material, creating an optical illusion. Viewers sense the sheer breadth of her space as their gaze sweep across the composition and perspectives shift, almost as if they themselves were walking through the scene. It resonates with the mix of buildings and facades in Robert Delaunay’s Cubist inspired painting Study for The City (Fig. 2), where he concentrates on juxtapositions of colour and shape to achieve movement and tension ; while Paul Citroen's futurist collage Metropolis (Fig. 3) echoes his vision of chaos and surging energy within a city.

    Collages were originally conceived out of the Cubists' desire to overturn the presentation of three-dimensional space that dominated western painting since the Renaissance. Choi here deconstructs normally familiar items, eliminating their functionality and decorativeness so that the original, separate details of the items of clothing are newly juxtaposed, appearing on the picture surface like the flowing brushstrokes of a painting that vibrate as part of a whole. The artist's conversion and re-appropriation of these pieces of second-hand clothing also provides them with new meanings and identities. Pockets and zippers achieve new existences outside of our normal perception of them, symbolically forming landscape elements and joining together in new organizations that create a sense of a continuous landscape.


    Through the dexterous handling of denim, the artist skillfully produces a work with powerful cultural remarks. Few garments can be as widely worn and loved the world over as denim- a classic symbol of the American West first created as strong workwear in the 1800s. It first came to Korea during Korean War in the early 1950s, and now a staple in wardrobes for Koreans of all generations and around the world.

    Denim became a social significance as a new form of communication. The innate necessities of humans are correspondingly found in denim; the requisite for shelter, protection, collective acceptance and urge for self-expression. The hard-wearing woven cotton confirms its durability, demonstrating its protection and its ability to form a shelter for our bodies. Commonly favored by all, Denim is collectively accepted and can accommodate to each individualistic style for self-expression. Jeans are not only a symbol of democratisation, they put different classes on a level playing field, they conform to the body in a way that matched tailored clothes. Denim has the versatility andthe ability to become all things to all people. By means of appropriating recycled denims, Choi transfers the human spirit into the landscape by displaying the biological degradation of the textures and colors of the fabrics, their fading and tearing, all bear the signs of aging over time, to recite the journey since it was first worn. They powerfully project the feelings implicit in their forms and the histories and movements of their previous owners, it is four-dimensional as it changes with time. The eternal appeal of jeans is that they tell the story of people’s lives. This tasteful riddle is uncovered with sundry texture and colour bringing new visual amusement and depth of narration to the variation among repetition in the inaudibly and yet shrewdly created cityscape. The artist's personality can be found in her economically utilised material she elegantly consumes and supplements, indicating her habitual past of wearing handed-down jeans from her older sister which had given her a same feeling of warmth and belonging.


    Timidly criticizing on the materialism that clothing bestows on society in categorization of social class, occupation and income, Choi inserts different jean logos as advertisement billboards to remind us that jeans is a form of a collectible, hence an entity for materialism. The devotion to material possession is often seen as excessive wealth applicable to city structure as undue buildings cause claustrophobia. Technological production has inevitable influence on the materialistic culture, with its endless manufacture of objects resulting in excessive objects that grant individuals an addictive inclination towards materialism. Complex phenomena of pluralism opens up unnecessary scope of choices which instigates hesitancy and migratory characteristics of an individual, causing a metaphysical loss of comfort and home with their inability to settle.

    Choi shares the beauty of her hometown as she creates an inviting milieu to relieve the social economic behavior of homelessness felt amongst the contemporary society. The gratification and security her hometown gives her is evident in her proficient application of rigid denim to poetise a compact narrative of her city. Through her sincerity and faith, she speaks coyly of her cultural and social concerns in anthropological reductivity that reflects her conscious choice in adopting a nostalgic aesthetics in her landscape, which seemingly appear homogeneous but holds complex veracity of modernism.


    Private Collection, Asia

    Pre-Lot Text



    Cais Gallery, Choi, So Young, Seoul, Korea, 2010 (illustrated, pp. 19 & 97).


    Seoul, Korea, Cais Gallery, Denimscape, 2010.