Creator: Suh Yong
Title: Language of Heaven
Work Type: Painting
Material: loess, pigment, mixed media and gold foil on hemp
Measurements: 244 x 178 cm. (96 x 70 1/16 in.)
Repository: Christie’s Auction
Suh Yong’s multimedia painting depicts Buddhist Heaven. The image is split into three tiers, each tier having its own scene. There is a sense of journey upwards; these three tiers emphasize that. Starting at the bottom and moving the eye upward, the first tier depicts a lotus pond with platforms and bridges on top. The central platform has musicians and dancers performing. Holy figures with halos sit on the platforms on the left and right and seem to be engaging with the musicians on the lower bridges next to them. The next tier depicts the Buddha central with Bodhisattvas to the left and right of him. This is the main focal point of the whole painting. These holy figures sit on a platform in front of an architectural structure that mimics a pavilion-type building. Inside this building and below the Buddha are religious figures with halos. They all have their eyes closed along with the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. They look like they are caught in the middle of praying. The final tier at the top of the painting depicts a gallery-type structure with other figures looking down at the Buddha praying.
Suh Yong intentionally split the painting into different sections to create a sense of journey. This journey could also reflect on the trip to Heaven and the rebirth in Heaven since, in Buddhist ideology, Heaven is only a temporary state. Placing the Buddha in the middle plane centrally helps to highlight the Buddha’s holy status and superiority over every other figure in the painting. The colors used in this multimedia painting also help to highlight the divine nature of this painting. The painting has a palette of teal, green, tans, browns, reds, and gold. The use of the gold color helps create a sense of holiness, as it outlines the halos and figures of the religious people. This painting is very traditional in understanding the subject matter and layout of the painting, but Suh Yong adds more modern elements. The border of this painting has a pattern of florals and a gold foil square on each corner. This use of iconography is a modern touch. The floral designs could depict a lotus flower indicating the purity of the scene within its border. The gold squares add light to the painting and movement as well. In Buddhism, there is a connection between light and morality, purity and goodness. The use of the gold foil squares helps indicate the scene within the painting as Heaven by creating a sense of purity and good around the internal images.