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Ronald Clayton


1998-2000 Korea Foundation Fellowship

Years ago, I read a book by the art historian Simon Schama titled "Landscape and Memory". This book is a meditation on the conflict between man and nature throughout western history. Schama leads his readers on a poignant but futile pilgrimage all over the western world looking for just one view of nature as it might have been without man's intervention. In the end the nature he reveals most clearly is human nature. Because the conflicts which define history are of course, all too human, nature is at most a passive witness to, and often a victim of human conflict.

Schama's book seemed to validate my paintings but as a painter, I have a certain advantage... At first I integrated idealized landscapes from my mind's eye and memory into paintings that are otherwise abstract suggestions of industrial interiors. I wanted to set up a tension between the two by playing on the tension between abstract and illusionist pictorial space.

Then in 1997 I visited Mexico on vacation. I went to the Yucatan and rediscovered for myself the ruins of Mayan civilization. I had previously spent time in American ruins of the Anasazi (Indian) peoples in Southern Utah.

From these experiences I made a series of paintings in which the interiors reflect hints of Mayan architecture and the Landscapes are taken directly from the forests of the Yucatan. I wanted to draw parallels between the failure of Mayan civilization and what could be the ultimate fate of my own.

When I came back to Korea it was to re-establish a connection with the land and people I have long admired. I knew Korea to be an ancient civilization which has survived many human conflicts over it's five thousand years of history. I knew that Korean civilization always strives to establish harmony with nature.

But I was not prepared to find an ancient culture, older than the Mayan's in which a living continuity between past and present is so clearly evident. Historic Bhuddhust temples such as Pulguksa, Haensa, and Pobjusa are not ruins or relics like those of the Mayans. They are living breathing cultural arteries connecting Korea's past and present .

I know the Korean people to have a profound regard for nature. With all the human conflict played out in their history, it is astounding to find the land itself so well tended, preserved and renewed. The sacrifices which the Korean people have and are making to preserve their land are everywhere evident.

In Korea I have found a nature tended, nurtured and husbanded by people historically devoted to the land they live on. "The Environment" here is not a recent discovery as it is in my young country

How shall I reflect that experience in my future work?

To purchase the 32 page full color catalogue "Ronald Clayton: The Choson Series", which beautifully illustrates the work that resulted from Ron's travels in Korea, please email us at dan@addingtongallery.com or call the gallery at 312.664.3406 to place an order.

The catalogue is $10.00 postage paid.

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