When he entered the Buddhist monastery of Hae-ti in the mountains of South Korea 20 years ago, Won Jung brought his craft with him.
He had been an artist, and the monks encouraged him to continue his work, which became his very own form of meditation, he said.
“We have many ways to meditate,” Won Jung said. “Walking can be meditation, eating can be meditation, life can be meditation: Art is my meditation.”
His most recent watercolors and wood sculptures—on exhibit at Two Fish Studio on Street 302 until June—are compelling because of their simplicity, his outlines of figures and wooden abstract sculptures emanate tranquility.
In his youth, Won Jung studied art at the University of Kasei in Germany and, fascinated by sculpture, had experimented with all materials—from stone and wood to metals—to create highly complex works.
But as he delved into Buddhist studies, he moved away from intricate concepts. “Each piece is like the portion of a mountain above ground,” the South Korean artist explained. “Deep in the soil is a whole world of meanings.”
Won Jung has produced the works on exhibit since he came to Cambodia in January at the invitation of Cambodia’s leading Buddhist Patriarch Tep Vong, whom he accompanied on his visit of South Korea last year. Won Jung, 55, is currently staying at Phnom Penh’s Wat Ounalom.
The series has been inspired by his time in Cambodia. For his polished-wood sculptures, Won Jung searched for old wood from trees that had witnessed Cambodia’s history and whose voice he could hear, he said. “Cambodia’s history resides inside that wood, and today’s life rests on that history,” he said.
His sculpture entitled “Our current lives rest on the sorrow of the past”—referring to Cambodia’s recent decades of conflict—stands on a log Won Jung found on the street. On this base sits a stylized Buddha, his head and torso left hollow so that, he said, “we can see beyond.”
The sculpture “Happy Together” consists of three movable pieces: two serene faces supporting each other in a wooden rectangular basket.
In his watercolor “Gazing at the voices of the spirits of Angkor,” Won Jung has drawn two lines for the eyes under highbrows and a nose done in one continuous line to suggest the faces of Angkor’s Bayon temple.
Asked whether he finds Cambodia’s life and Buddhist practices different from what he has experienced in South Korea, Won Jung said that to get to the summit of a mountain, one may walk or use a helicopter or a motorcycle taxi. But regardless of the mode of transportation people may choose, their goal remains the same: reaching the top of the mountain, he said.