Park, Young-Taek (Professor at Kyunggi Univ, Art Critic)


Surrounded by animal figures is the artist, Noh Jun. These animal figures are not meant to be exact representations of actual animals but rather to be abstract, anthropogenic images. His work studio is crowded with animal figures, cartoon images, and adorable characters. He is the master of the Kingdom of characters; to approach him must you pass his animal creations.  I find anew the similar presence with Noh in his creations. These fancy, endearing animal sculptures are quite man-like, standing straight and looking straight ahead. Difficult to avoid their eyes, I thought. These pleasant and lovable things are gladly come in my hands. Noh is the creator and the master of the Kingdom of Characters; he is also their parents and the primary subject of admiration. He gave adequate forms, expressions and colors to these animal icons. Noh broods these products of his creative imagination and dreams. Working on his artworks to Noh is, thus, like a process from conceiving, delivering and nurturing his creations. Also exhibiting his artworks is an occasion of showing and sending them away to others. He diligently trims wood, faces a stone smoothly and processes the metals to make the hoped-for images and characters; then he paints them in bright and vivid colors. A fictional image is carved out of a natural material and painted in synthetic colors; yet, such oddities make a reversal bringing us rather familiar and accessible characters.


His sculptures are modeled animal dolls and animation characters against the common practice of established sculpture art. Awkward combination of icons, techniques, images and materials here bring along unfamiliarity. Cute animal characters that people usually own are generally made of smooth cloths, or viewed as illusory images or two dimensional flat images. However, it is somewhat impressive that these animal characters made of hard materials and lacquered in bright colors are tangible in real. (Such a method has rather commonly used by Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Nara Yoshitomo and such.) Noh Jun made animal figures out of materials like wood, stone and stainless steel; he colored the figures and made them stand upright. While dolls and animation characters are fairly common around us, Noh’s figures that were modeled in solid sculptural materials and went through painterly process. 


Dolls and animation characters, which have been common around us, appear impressive in our lives as they are sculpted in hard sculptural and gone through painterly process. He often uses teak and suwar wood from Bali, sandstone, stainless steel, and sometimes bronze. He basically takes traditional sculptural materials such as wood, stone and metal. Polyurethane paint—for its excellent performance characteristics such as vibrant tinting effect and highly durable coating—is applied to color and finish the surface. He shuttles back and forth his work studios in Bali, China and Korea; he works with materials he can find on the spot. He chips wood, carves a rock, processes metal and bronze in order to give birth to his character statues. His work is a process that he brings out his favorite, beloved things out to the real world.


It is interesting that two-dimensional animal characters from films or comic books are recreated by Noh Jun as physical and touchable figures that are standing straight. The sense of kitsch, which has become widely spread and common in our contemporary society, is apparently brought into his sculptures. It is not unusual that many of us, if not most of us, have been a patronage of such ‘sweet kitsch-ness’ like animal characters, dolls and various objets. As probably known, people tend to embrace almost everything with adorable characters; in other words, we are generally very used to kitsch-experience and kitsch-attitudes. Since the moment we are born to the world, we are surrounded by certain play-things and pet images. They are various kinds of animal-shaped stuffed dolls and things. These animals are wild beasts dragged into everyday life and domesticated. And they are demanded to be safe and obedient to their makers—humans; they are personified, anthropomorphic animals as well as illusory animal images. The charming animal figures become meaningful not only in the aesthetic sense but also in the emotional context. The fact that we can hold and enjoy them as much as we want makes us want them even more. Hence, the object is not just modeling an animal; it is rather acting as a person. Likewise, our first or early encounter with animals is often in the form of kitsch. It is not new in this contemporary world that kitsch taste that provides instant satisfaction and comfort has become common sentiment and generally accepted esthetic sense. However, would it not cast a shadow over?


The images produced by Noh are imaginary characters. The characters are analogous life form non-existent in real life similar to those animals in manga and anime. The difference between them is Noh’s characters are made out of his unique imagination. In other words, Noh did not depend on or reproduced existing character images or icons; Noh put intense labor and efforts to carve, chisel and refine his sculpture works. He does not repeat or borrow the already-made. Noh produces things similar to existing images but with tenuous distinctions. Noh makes a crack in usual familiarity and friendliness; he plants his creative icons in the crack. Noh’s sculptures resemble animal playthings; while he works on his sculptures, he fully appreciates the genuine meaning and joy of making. Noh creates characters to let others play. He is exuberant to achieve his aspiration of making his works as someone’s playmate. He also takes pleasure in sharing time with his toy / character figures. The foremost pastime to the artist is certainly appreciated during the process of production; he intends to return such experience to viewers. Noh did not merely reproduce kitsch animal toys or treats with sculptural materials: it implies that his creative works do not end up as unrealistic existence shutting off from the reality; it instead brings back the object stirring up the very first curiosity and imagination from the back of the time so that one can generate/ re-generate long-lost or forgotten memories. His animal figures enable people to recollect memories of the youth, telling stories of animal toys and playthings from the past and reading the old-time favorite fairy tales. Noh Jun’s character, thus, acts as an agent to deliver such stories and visions. The adorable animal characters possess common sentiments throughout the mankind that evokes sympathy of viewers. The objective of making the animal characters is to bring back the long-forgotten hopes and dreams, to recollect memories of childhood play, and to inspire instinctive aesthetic sentiment. Hence, the exhibition is dedicated to ‘Hopes For Those Who Have Forget Their Hopes.’