Korean artist Do Sungwook leads us into his mysterious woodland. Sunlight bursts through the canopy, glowing and incandescent. It articulates the massed forms of trunks, branches and foliage, lighting paths that thread through the shadow. His paintings summon up an archetypal idea of the forest as a place of concealment and possible revelation.
An experienced painter with an extensive curriculum vitae, this is Do Sungwook's first exhibition with Pontone Gallery. He employs a traditional method of representational oil painting, concerned to convey an illusion of reality. Some are large-scale pieces, a few are in horizontally-arranged, ‘triptych’ format.
The artist is keen to point out that these are not views of particular sites, but confected images: the motifs are his interpretations of remembered places. The invented compositions allow him to concentrate entirely on his desired effects of light and its dramatic expression. He states that the primary purpose of his practice is to convey its essential, life-giving quality.
Our way through the trees is theatrically illuminated. The sun breaks through the overhanging greenery, at dawn or dusk, in the bluish, crisp light of winter or the golden, hazy gleam of summer. There is a filmic quality to these scenes, a palpable aura of suspense. These are places of potential and expected incident.
Strangely gothic and melodramatic, the image of the forest is a powerful one, carrying all sorts of meanings, both good and bad. To the Western mind the vast, trackless forests of the European hinterland conjure up associations with fairy tale, historical horror and shameful acts of persecution and violence. There are more recent associations with environmental ideas of growth and renewal. Culturally-loaded, the forest is a potent symbol. Do Sungwook’s apparently tranquil, arboreal landscapes play with our many expectations and make a template for subsequent imaginings, whatever they may be.