I can’t thank you enough since you were willing to offer one of your paintings to which you must have dedicated your time, effort, and heart. First of all, I would like to thank you for listening to my thoughts. As you know, I am just a humble student without any noticeable achievements. Further, I am not perfect in conveying my thoughts in complete phrases. However, you listened to me and even encouraged me to take a chance, and so here I extend my sincere gratitude to you. I decided that the least I can do out of courtesy is to explain how I came up with the scraping idea, and this is why I am writing to you.

First I hate the thought of visiting a gallery just to realize that a painting is ultimately a combination of colored paint regardless of method, consuming various illusions created by the combination. I believe that what makes a painting different from a photo is the spirit within, not the fact that it is a piece of artwork. I have had doubts over what on earth a painting created by a combination of color on a canvas can make it be sold at such a high price, and why audiences should pay a considerable fare to appreciate it. And I have come to conclude that fetishism of painting is the reason. No matter how many times I have inspected paintings I can’t get rid of the thought that they’re just combinations of colored paint. As such, if you say that something has been materialized through a painting, it is likely to be pointed out as too much of an impressionist critique. It might work like this: people say that something feels good or is interesting when it’s what they ultimately find familiar or have learned somewhere before even if they’re not aware of it.

As you are well aware, since Duchamp, art has been about more than creating exclusive art works. Instead, what counts has been the discussions raised regarding the relevant works. I don’t think it is right for an artist to regard his or her work as the one and only work, creating his or her own aura. This will only result in obtaining the skill to combine paints on a canvas, thereby allowing audiences to continue to consume the relationship created by that combination of paints. Further, this will not create a productive development in any respect. It is true that the creation of an artwork starts from an individual artist. However, only when a work created by an individual becomes the subject of empathy, thereby allowing people to open their eyes to something new, can productivity be created, rendering the work to be a true piece of art. I believe that the value of a work of art is not placed within the thickly layered chunks of colored paint.

I noticed that I started to work on paintings based on values modeled after a Western education, and this is what has motivated me to engage in the scraping. Mulling over perspective, shading, and other methods of expression derived from the West has raised serious questions about the implications Western methods have had on me. This, in turn, makes me question myself about the essence of a painting.

Saying that the reason we have to acquire an in-depth knowledge of Western art is not to imitate their works but to overcome them and produce better ones, you added: “Starting from Western-style drawing, one should realize what their style of drawing truly is, and further one’s own style of drawing. Ultimately, I desire to interact with people having different values through different art works.” I couldn’t agree with you more. I know that one cannot seek both practice and art theory just to master them. In fact, one does not need to. Such belief is from the self-recognition that a new piece of work precedes any relevant theory. I should have realized what I was doing before starting my project.

As you also know, the work that we mainly encounter on the 8th floor of Unit F have been assessed based on the theories coming from the West, particularly those introduced by the American Clement Greenberg in the 1940s. However, I couldn’t disagree more with the argument that the essence of painting lies in its flat surface. Asserting that the flat surface is the essence of a painting means that changes in definition and conception of the state of flatness subsequently change the essence. However, if the essence changes, how could it be called essence?

Such an argument has been established based on Western culture in the 1940s when people sought the essence of a substance. However, things have changed, and this has only given rise to a series of questions to me. As science has been developed in the West, many things that could be seen as essence have turned out not to be. I wonder if the concept of essence is simply a notion people have established. As I continue to think, I’ve realized that there are so many undefined issues within society, and the consequences, rather than the essence, pose a greater issue. What has been established as truth is doubted, and I think this is the current status of society. At the very least, who would indeed be able to define oneself? I believe it is hard to explain why I was born into this world even if I did not wish for it. At this very moment, a cell in the corner of my body is on its way to death while another is newly created. As a living organism that replicates and changes every moment, the notions embedded also change. In other words, I believe there are only unceasing cycles of circulation, and no such thing as essence exists. At the moment you have seized the essence of a substance, it instantly becomes the essence of the past.

Modern art has progressed with a constant suspicion towards things of the past. Such a deep suspicion has gradually separated art from concept and notion. This, I believe, is how modern art has constantly moved toward new values, instead of seeking truth. However, this has helped modern art to take one step closer to truth compared to when it is fixed, which can only sound paradoxical.

This is why I intend to continue to create works that are not familiar—which look unfamiliar even to myself. Something familiar would mean that I have encountered it somewhere before. Now, I hope to see more of your works become unfamiliar. I also hope that watching my works becoming unfamiliar might be a whole different experience for you. Although my works may fail to serve as a huge inspiration for you, they could still provide an opportunity to take one step back from the obsessive desire for drawing and to think about paintings again.

Even if your work were to disappear after my work on yours has been completed, I believe that it will still show its presence through a new value in my work. If it is true that Hegel was a wise man, I would like to share the joy of reaching the spot within the triangle established through the dialectic asserted by him.

May 28, 2003

Sun Choi