Yun is best known for his paintings with superposed umber and ultramarine oil paint, works with dark,
rectilinear forms enveloped by lighter areas, that he delicately developed for forty years.
Yun was inspired by the art of ink brush writing master Kim JeongHui (pen name Chusa) and by nature.
In 1976 the artist had a life shaping experience when he saw a massive, rotting tree and was overwhelmed by
nature’s magnitude and mystery: “I want to make paintings that, like nature, one never tires of looking at.
That is all I want in my art.”
Even before that memorable moment, nature was of inspiration for his palette. After the basic compositions with
bright colours and thick encrustations of paint of his early work, his paintings drastically changed when one day
in 1967 he placed a raw canvas on his studio floor and inscribed upon it several vertical stripes in two alternating
colours: umber, the colour of earth, and ultramarine, the colour of water. Later, he merged them, one on top of
the other in an unceremonious routine, to create an intense and velvety darkness.
Yun’s works are evidence of a being in time, of a living existence that changed face with the passage of time.
But his art is not only a trace of his time, he also transcribed time into it. He added turpentine
solvent to the painted umber and blue. Absorbed by the support at a faster rate than the oil, the solvent
encroached slowly upon the unpainted areas, leaving behind one, two, and sometimes more penumbras, a
seepage that was enhanced by Yun’s turn to hemp and linen rather than canvas as the support, that was
untreated save for a light application of oxhide glue. He did this to find the watery viscosity of ink and he used
ink brushes of different sizes, as he wanted to continue the core ethos of Kim’s abstract ink writing art.
Yun was interested in the organization of those forms and the spaces between them. By the mid-seventies,
these spaces were sometimes so wide as to take up most of the picture plane. Korean audiences of the time
described these spaces as jobaek, a word frequently used to refer to the ‘void’ in traditional ink painting. Yun,
however, who never used this word himself in reference to his work, emphasized the materiality of these spaces
by leaving them unpainted. For him, the challenge lay in thinking about the role of unmarked spaces without
having to appeal to ideas like the void, which tended to be invoked within the contemporary art context as a
metaphor of Asian-ness.