Christina Cho paints ethereal landscapes combining symbols and images from her native Korea and her adopted home in the Philippines.

Manila-based Korean artist Christina Cho speaks to Art Radar about the reimagined landscapes in her most recent solo exhibition and being a late comer into the art scene.

Christina Cho, ‘Secret Garden II’, 2018, oil on canvas, 61 x 73 cm. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

Christina Cho, ‘Secret Garden II’, 2018, oil on canvas, 61 x 73 cm. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

After putting forward paintings that captured the soul and earthiness of places visited and flora encountered, Christina Cho (b. 1960) surprised viewers in her second solo exhibition, which was mostly composed of ethereal landscapes.

Aptly titled A Moment in Eternity”, the Korean artist’s new showcase featured symbolic images from her roots, common plants from the Philippines, the country she is currently living in, and fragments from her travels in their most pristine state, while expanding her painting vocabulary.

Taking up painting late in life, Cho nevertheless delights as her works captures the immaculate, and for this particular collection, triggers nostalgia and provokes daydream.

It was in 2004, the year that her husband was stationed in Manila, that Cho started painting. After two years of being active in the PTA Painting Club of the International School of Manila, she furthered her study of the art form by enrolling in art classes upon returning to her home country. A member of Modern Art Institute and Korean Art Museum in Seoul, Korea, Cho has been part of 15 group exhibitions.

In this interview with Art Radar, she touches on the development of her style, her early exposure to art and the inspirations behind A Moment in Eternity”, which was held in ArtistSpace.

Manila-based Korean artist Christina Cho. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

Manila-based Korean artist Christina Cho. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

Let us start with some interesting points in your artist profile. Although you began painting as an adult, your interest in the visual arts can be traced back to your childhood. While growing up in Seoul, who were the artists that you looked up to? Have their works greatly influenced your art?

First of all, thank you for your interest in my artwork. As you mentioned I started paintings [as] an adult, that’s correct. My late father, an art lover, always took me to many exhibitions and bought some paintings. Since then, I had a strong desire and craving for arts, but I was not able to pursue this due to various personal reasons.

After [my] marriage in 1983, I was looking for a job and studied interior design and perspective drawing for three years in Seoul, but I couldn’t give up my passion for painting.

I like Alberto Giacometti and Amedeo Modigliani’s artwork but I was not influenced by those great artists.

Christina Cho, ‘Ten Longevity’, 2018, oil on canvas, 73 x 61 cm. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

Christina Cho, ‘Ten Longevity’, 2018, oil on canvas, 73 x 61 cm. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

We noticed that two years after you began painting in 2004, you decided to attend art classes in Korea. What did you hope to learn from this formal training? Having been part the PTA Painting Club, which is based in Manila, did you notice differences in the way artists from Manila and from Korea approached their canvas?

In 2003, I came to Manila with my husband who was assigned here for work. I let my younger son study in International School of Manila (ISM) and I started painting at PTA, whose members were from various countries, and the painting club of ISM.

After I came back to Korea in 2006, I enrolled in art classes and joined art clubs and activated until 2013. During this time, I had enough time and concentrated on painting because my husband and I decided to let our two sons go to United States to study.

I think that art activities are basically same between PTA and Korea, but the programme in Korea is more phase approaching because it is a more professional art institute. On the other hand, the PTA was not providing systematic training because it is an art club in school.

Christina Cho, ‘Shadow of Kalachuchi’, 2018, oil on canvas, 53 x 41 cm. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

Christina Cho, ‘Shadow of Kalachuchi’, 2018, oil on canvas, 53 x 41 cm. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

Could you talk about your choice of transitioning from a realistic style to this serene and dreamy style in “A Moment of Eternity”? Are any of the landscapes in this exhibition based on real places?

Actually, my previous paintings were realistic sceneries and architecture. I especially focused on perspective. Last March, I went Hong Kong to see the Hong Kong Art Festival and I was impressed by modern art works and I envisioned a new style which is expressed through emotional approach regardless of logic or principals of my former paintings.

In my new artworks in this exhibit, I tried to transform Ten Korean traditional symbols of longevity, namey, the sun, moon, mountain, water, pine tree, rock, deer, crane, turtle, elixir plant in the Shangri-La, the unknown world through adding a mystery on it.

Most of other landscape paintings in this exhibition are based on real places. [When]I travelled with my husband to Italy and Southern France, I made sketch[es] or took pictures.

Christina Cho, ‘A Peaceful Landscape’, 2017, oil on canvas, 53 x 65 cm. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

Christina Cho, ‘A Peaceful Landscape’, 2017, oil on canvas, 53 x 65 cm. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

Is A Peaceful Landscape, the painting that shows a lady in white in the fields painting, a self-portrait? Was it difficult for to imagine calm and lush landscapes, considering that you are based in Manila, a city that is highly urbanised?

Actually, the lady in the painting is not me [thus] not a self-portrait. I long for that scenery and I imagined that the lady in the painting would be me. And of course, it’s difficult to imagine these landscapes, but I was inspired by occasionally travelling, searching for an art magazine and surfing the internet.

Christina Cho, 'Shangri-La I', 2018, oil on canvas, 91 x 117 cm. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

Christina Cho, ‘Shangri-La I’, 2018, oil on canvas, 91 x 117 cm. Image courtesy ArtistSpace.

Will you continue this dreamy painting style of yours in future exhibitions? And what other subjects do you wish to tackle in your artworks?  

Yes, I would like to continue this kind of style but the dreamy tone might be changed depending on the subject. I hope to exhibit at Art Fair Philippines and hopefully at Hong Kong Art Fair in 2019.

Currently, I’m considering the next subject.

You have been living in the Philippines for a long time. Could you name some artists whose works you admire? And what is it like to be a foreign artist in Manila?

I like artworks of Bencab (Ben Cabrera) and I would like to be remembered as a foreign artist whose artworks bring out peace and calmness to the hearts of all Filipinos.

Javelyn Ramos

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“A Moment of Eternity” by Christina Cho was on view until 1 October 2018. ArtistSpace is located at the Ayala Museum Annex, Ground Level, Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street, Makati City.

Related Topics: Korean artists, gallery shows, painting, interviews, events in Manila

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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