The esquisse of Mok-woo, No.5 of the Shim-woo-do Series by Yeonjin Jo
Click to View Full Size

The esquisse of Mok-woo, No.5 of the Shim-woo-do Series (2022)

Yeonjin Jo
<Shim-woo-do (尋牛圖)> is a representative series of images in art of Buddhism. This depicts the process in which a young monk(童子僧) discovers his wandering true nature, leaves his practice, and reaches enlightenment in 10 steps. It is typically depicted as a mural on the outer walls of Buddhist temples. In the original version of <Shim-woo-do>, bulls are used metaphorically for express human nature. The plot is as follows: a young monk discovers a black bull in the wild, tames it into a white bull, and rides it back to share his enlightenment with the world. Since it consists of ten stages, it is also called <Ten Bulls> or <Ten Ox Herding Pictures (十牛圖)>.

Among these ten pictures, <Mok-woo (牧牛)> is the fifth picture of <Shim-woo-do>, depicting a struggle of taming a black-brown bull into a white. It symbolizes the taming of one’s mind and nature.

<The esquisse of Mok-woo, No.5 of the Shim-woo-do Series (2022)> is an abstract reinterpreted artwork. The rugged surface with the burnt tree’s color expresses the innate human nature as it is. Conversely, the smooth white surface represents the tamed nature. The two colors are clearly divided by distinct boundary. The thick blood-red string, piercing the canvas near the center of the ‘Innate Nature’ section, raises a question about whether human nature must be conquered. It contains artist’s criticism of whether it is worth reconstructing the innate human nature at the cost of blood, even though the nature is one’s own as well. The artist questions why pursuing ideals from one’s true self is considered wrong. At the same time, the melancholy of having to compromise with reality (inevitably being tamed) is revealed. Which is the right choice do you think between pursuing ideals and compromising with reality?