WonHee Noh, Blue Fantasia -12, 17.9”x 14.9”, Mixed media on Korean paper, 2014
Sometimes a memorable statement can be made in few words. In her recent series of paintings on paper, artists WonHee Noh expresses concepts, sensations, and states of mind with the simplest of tools and a unique vision.
Noh's Large works on traditional Korean Hanji paper are suffused with deep indigo lines, cloud-like fields of color, and delicate tracery. By limiting her material and medium, Noh ensures that the expressive nature of her works are all the result of her mind, her eye and her hands.
More than fifty years ago, American artist, Mark Rothko created deeply psychologically moving masterworks from nothing but strokes of colors, in a limited range of tones. Noh continues this tradition.
WonHee Noh, Blue Fantasia -4, 31.6”x 25.6”, Mixed media on Korean paper, 2014
Hanji paper holds a revered position in Korean art and culture. It is made from the bark of a special, indigenous mulberry tree, and has been used by Korean artists for thousands of years. Hanji paper is durable, yet delicate, and the fibers of the bark allow for great variety of artistic expression. The paper, itself, speaks of time and place. Noh adds her voice to the paper's quietly and gently. She uses one type and tone of ink. Then, by folding and bending the Hanji paper, controlling the fluidity of the ink, and placing it with precision and vision, the artist creates paintings on white paper, deeply infused with blue.
WonHee Noh, Blue Fantasia: 13-14, 13.7”x 10.7”, Mixed media on Korean paper, 2014
While they are completely abstract, they evoke the sky and earth, water and air. Their flat surfaces still retain the markings left by the folding, so the final image bears testament to the process as well. The material is intrinsic to the work, but it does not define the work. Both material and artistry combine to create abstract images that convey a sense of space.
Whether horizontally or vertically composed, the layers of lines in tones of blue range from faintly discernible from white to deep blue, bordering on black. They bring to mind horizons, mountain ranges, waves in the ocean, and bands of clouds. They impart a sense of environment, which is an important and central theme for many contemporary artists.
WonHee Noh, Blue Fantasia -3, 28.6” x 23.8”, Mixed media on Korean paper, 2014
WonHee Noh, in this striking series of works, uses natural materials and methods to convey a sense of natural harmony. We all know that the earth, seen from space, is blue. Blue Fantasia is WonHee Noh's response to our world where she focuses on beauty and harmony through delicate, peaceful compositions.
Mary Gregory is a New York art critic and writer.