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SUH YONG
(B. 1962)
Language of the Heaven
signed 'Suhyong' in English (lower right)
loess, pigment, mixed media and gold foil on hemp
244 x 178 cm. (96 x 70 1/16 in.)
Painted in 2002
one painted seal of the artist
Literature
Yeo You Dang, A Desert's Eternal Flower- Dunhuang, Seoul, Korea, 2004 (illustrated, plate 231, unpaged).
Exhibited
Seoul, Korea, Seoul Auction Centre, A Desert's Eternal Flower-Dunhuang, 4 August-4 September 2004.
Kyungnam, Korea, Todosa Museum, A Desert's Eternal Flower-Dunhuang, 16 September 2004-10 February 2005.

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Lot Essay

Suh Yong uses the same medium and painterly techniques of the Dunhuang murals in his works, thus honestly presenting the ancient murals' compositions, textures, tactile sense, spirituality and antiquated beauty. Yet his works are not direct copies from the original grottoes and in fact include iconographies and unique compositional twists, transforming Dunhuang murals into contemporary art with renewed relevance.

At first glance, Language of the Heaven (Lot 1380) emerges in mirrored symmetry, being both expressions of religious beliefs and moral codes of humanity with obvious hierarchical connotations of social systems. The parallel images appear flat in execution but yet serve a compositional stability and also as allegorical evocation of a stable order. The arrangement is clear - divided in three tiers to imply distance - the forefront opens up the gates of heaven with an empty space in the middle for the viewer to position themselves; an adept placement for our eyes to gaze directly into eyes of the Buddha, poised at the centre accompanied by two Bodhisattvas, the superior scale and the central position being an obvious indication of his supremacy. In final tier, our vision reaches beyond the deity into the garden of the imperial palace. Though Suh has specialized in academic study of Dunhuang murals and pigments used for more than seven years, his interest remains distinctly modern, investigating the languages of iconography and symbolism. His exploitation of the gold foil and its illuminating effect exemplify his acute awareness of its symbolic and aesthetic power; the four gold corners further sanctify heaven, providing an aura of transcendence and an illusion of motion to the otherwise static picture plane. Whereas many contemporary artists have chosen videos as an element to transcend from three-dimensionality and to present the element of time, Suh has selected ancient murals to recount the passing of memories and time, freeze-framing thousands of years in a single piece of artwork that transcends space, time and cultural barriers in the new century.

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