Sung-Hun Kong's paintings of dreary winter scenes are not about the awe of nature nor the sense of sublime beauty that typically resonates from such awe. Instead, his paintings reveal nature at its exhausted state after having been endlessly exploited and ingested by people until it became no more than a prop on a theater stage. Nonetheless, the tempestuous clouds and storms that engulf his landscapes impart the enduring power that will always remain beyond human control. Such attributes might be an intrinsic part of nature or other unknown forces that defy human control. Some easy examples include situational variables like economic crashes or human desire in a constant state of flux. The power could also symbolize immediacy of crises, imminent threats of war and violence, or even the relentless vulgarity of our society itself.
The admiration we feel for the artist's paintings does not originate from the inherent sublimity of nature represented in the works. In fact, his landscape have an effect more akin to a Pierrot, whose extravagant dress of bright colors and lavish decorations cloak his inherent gloom in a futile attempt. Likewise, Kong's views of nature initially present an impressive spectacle, but any feelings of veneration or magnificence the viewer might experience immediately vanish upon discovering a human being rendered in minuscule in the corner of the canvas. The sublimity of the presented landscape, hence, exudes from the artist's control over the canvas rather than the nature itself he so exquisitely depicts. Kong single-handedly and faithfully transforms a mere spectacle of nature into a painting rich with multiple layers of meaning and emotion.
Kong was awarded as the winner of 2013 Korea Artist Prize by National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea(MMCA).
Text courtesy Arario Gallery.
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