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ACC Gallery presents solo exhibition by Inho Cho

originally published: 02/16/2024

ACC Gallery presents solo exhibition by Inho Cho

(TENAFLY, NJ) -- ACC Gallery presents solo exhibition by Inho Cho entitled "Quiet Wandering: A Korean Travelogue through Ink-and Wash" from Feburary 15-29, 2024. The exhibition was curated by Sunglim Kim (Art Historian / Dartmouth College).

In “Quiet Wandering,” his first solo exhibition in the United States, Cho Inho presents diverse scenes of South Korea’s Seoraksan (Mt. Seorak) and Eastern Sea. Seoraksan is located in the middle of the Baekdudaegan, the so-called “spine of Korea,” a series of mountain ranges extending from Baekdusan (Mt. Baekdu, in far northeastern North Korea and the highest mountain in the country), through Geumgangsan (Mt. Geumgang or Diamond Mountain, also in North Korea), Seoraksan (the DMZ is between Geumgangsan and Seoraksan), Taebaeksan (Mt. Taebaek, in eastern South Korea), and Sobaeksan (Mt. Sobaek), all the way to Jirisan (Mt. Jiri, in southwestern South Korea). Seoraksan is the third highest mountain in South Korea (after Hallasan on Jeju Island and Jirisan). Cho chose to concentrate on Seoraksan, as it is one of South Korea’s most representative, favorite, and frequently visited mountains. Cho travels there at least once or twice a year, alone or with his family.

ACC Gallery presents solo exhibition by Inho Cho

Cho believes the work of artists must express themselves. For him, sansuhwa (山水畵), literally meaning paintings of mountains and water, and which can be translated as “traditional landscape,” is different from Western landscape painting and is what represents him and his art world.

​​​​​​​ACC Gallery presents solo exhibition by Inho Cho

In eighteenth century Korea, a new painting genre, called “Jingyeong sansuhwa (眞景山水畵),” appeared, led by renowned artist Jeong Seon (1676–1759). It was practiced by many painters, who traveled to the actual sites, sketched, and painted true nature, rather than simply copy old masters’ landscapes or paint “conceptual” scenes. At that time, the most popular and “must go” place was Geumgangsan, as it was considered the most beautiful and sacred site for Buddhism. After traveling from Seoul (then called Hanyang), the artists would visit inner Geumgang, outer Geumgang, and Sea Geumgang, then proceed to the Eastern Sea, or vice versa.

While Geumgangsan is not now accessible to South Koreans, as it is in North Korea beyond the DMZ, Cho was able to go to Seoraksan, following the route of the old masters. This exhibition shows how he traveled from the Eastern Sea (see “Pine Forest at Gyeongpodae,” “Hajodae,” “Uisangdae,” “Beach Near Seonang Rock,” “Jukdo,” “Geomeundo,” “Seonang Rock,” and “Songjiho Beach” in this exhibition) to Seoraksan, more specifically from Osaek to Daecheongbong (the highest peak of Mt. Seorak; see “Gwongeum Castle” and “Daecheongbong”), and down from there to view various other sites (see “Cheondang Waterfall,” “Hyeongjebong,” “Strange Rocks at Yang Waterfall,” “Mangyeongdae,” and “Oryeon Waterfall”). This exhibition is organized in a way to follow Cho’s own trip.

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Beginning with his first Korean solo exhibition in 2007, whenever he had issues to ponder, Cho sought his answers from nature, especially while wandering, excursing, or climbing mountains. As he began each excursion, his mind might be overwhelmed by complex problems and questions, but all those entangled troubles would disappear as he achieved unity of ego with nature: 

“Tip-tap, tip-tap, the crunching sound of footsteps . . . 

then suddenly, my worries disappear. I hear nothing but my own heartbeats. 

Striking scenes of nature appear before my eyes. 

Gathering all segments of enlightenment and perception, 

and of moments of unity with nature, I render them on canvas. 

The world of only black and white with no desire and greed, 

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The world free from deception, 

I portray in ink and wash. 

All the beings I meet in nature, I paint on canvas.” 

Written by Cho Inho 

ACC Gallery presents solo exhibition by Inho Cho

His sansuhwa is done only in ink and wash. Traditional landscape done that way, without any color, may not sound very attractive or visually compelling, yet Cho’s sansuhwa is intriguing, captivating, and in some ways very contemporary. His ink-and-wash landscape leaves behind, or goes beyond, the “colorful and attractive” secular life and desires. It becomes a trip through which the seekers meet their true selves. Some critics say Cho Inho’s sansuhwa is “following old but creating new (法古創新).” But is it at all possible to follow old while creating new at the same time?

Cho’s innovative method is to facilitate flowing “moving points of view” or “multi-perspectives” (as opposed to a “single point perspective”) to express his experiences of panoramic views as he continues moving around the particular site. His sansuhwa is not the depiction of the actual scene, but the reconstruction and collection of his particular enlightening “aha” moments and memories during his journey. Thus, in order to show some of the panoramic views experienced on his walks, his composition on canvas becomes bent and warped as seen in “Songjiho Beach” and “Gwongeum Castle.” 

ACC Gallery presents solo exhibition by Inho Cho

This exhibition also shows Cho’s use of bold, daring dark black for the nearest site. It is his first attempt to introduce the “beauty of negative space” or “yeobaek ui mi” in sansuhwa and traditional Korean art. As an art critic who has closely followed his progress of sansuhwa, I consider this daring black area is a very significant development. This shows his confident, creative way of portraying the “beauty of negative space.” Again, he is making another leap in his sumuk (水墨; ink-and-wash) sansuhwa.

For more than sixteen years, Cho has persisted in his pursuit of ink-and-wash traditional landscape. His approach may seem somewhat stubborn, but his interpretative modernization has been well-recognized and he received the prestigious “2023 National Academy of Arts of the Republic of Korea Award.” “Quiet Wandering” clearly shows what he went through and what he accomplished in those years. Here, Cho invites viewers to explore the exciting journey to the Eastern Sea and Seoraksan through his painting, allowing them to experience this sojourn, to leave their secular burdens behind, and perhaps like him, even to solve their problems by the end of the trip.

ACC Gallery presents solo exhibition by Inho Cho

He is currently a professor at Seoul National University and teaches oriental traditional painting.

ACC Gallery is located at 17-19 Washington St. 2nd fl (CVS Building) in Tenafly, New Jersey. The gallery specializes in modern and contemporary art. Acc gallery represents and supports international contemporary artists in painting, drawing, photography, video, sculpture, and installation. The gallery continually seeking for talented and exciting emerging artists to explore and expand the possibilities of their work.

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