Scarecrows Mean Life, Love

Painter Namgoong Won paints scarecrows to remember the old days in his native town

Painter Namgoong Won is a rare painter because the subjects of his paintings have always been scarecrows. He said he selected the subject because of his love for the countryside from his youth. In his hometown of Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, not far from Seoul, he always saw scarecrows in rice paddies to scare off birds that swoop down on the paddies to eat the rice. About 20 years, his work depicted scarecrows as a symbol of his native town with nostalgic memories.
The scarecrows in his early works look so nostalgic. They are in the middle of the autumn landscape, much of them drenched in gold color, evoking nostalgia for his early childhood. Those nostalgic works were created from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s. In the works of this decade, the image is more simplified, emphasizing the material rather than the form, art critic Oh Sae-kown said in his critic of Namgoong's art works.
A lump of dye accumulates on the canvas where the image of the scarecrow is only a secondary element. In short, the material of the dye overwhelms the specific image of the scarecrows.
In the 2008 Scarecrow/Love Series, he attempted to depict love related to his life and tales of his neighborhood because he considered life without love was meaningless. His work contained such themes as ill-fated love, traces of love and his first love, which seemed to be freely and exciting as if he attempted to write a diary.
In his recent works, the specific image of the scarecrow has disappeared. The materials accumulated on the canvas has removed the specifics of the scarecrows, but rather produced the symbolic signs of it, the art critic said.
The material has substituted the specifics of the scarecrow with abstract traces. His works have gradually changed in which the concrete images of scarecrows are simplified, deconstructed, and finally gone.
Now only symbolic traces of it have remained, so that they can be called abstract paintings. Therefore, in a sense, his works have changed from specific formative art to abstract art. His recent works have not so much revealed the forms of scarecrows, but gradually removed them by covering them with materials.
The background image also has been covered with dye, accumulated on or mixed with the image. The use of a monochrome pallet of dyes has contributed to the removal of the image.
Despite the effect of the materials, the dim image of a scarecrow remains, traces survive. The materials give us an impression of soil painted on the canvas, where a rough brushing of dye reminds us of the hand-decorated wall of the old traditional houses.
The dyes become mixed up with each other so that they organize into variations of visuality. A tendency toward abstract expressionism is found in the series of scarecrow artworks.
He currently is a professor of fine arts at Kyongwon University and also chairman of the Gyeonggi Arts Association.
He has held many solo and group exhibitions at home and overseas since 1968. nw

Scarecrow/Love Series; each 30 x 30 cm; acrylic on canvas; 2008

Road to Hometown: 130 x 132 cm; oil on canvas; 1990

Scarecrow series; 30 x 60 cm; acrylic on canvas; 2008

Painter Namgoong Won.

Copyright(c) 2003 Newsworld All rights reserved.
3Fl, 292-47, Shindang 6-dong, Chung-gu, Seoul, Korea 100-456
Tel : 82-2-2235-6114 / Fax : 82-2-2235-0799