For those visiting during Art Basel in Hong Kong (29–31 March 2019), the smell of fresh paint may still be in the air at the latest heritage conservation project, The Mills, which opened on 16 March to encompass the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textiles (CHAT), joining the ranks with ex-prison complex Tai Kwun, along with Eaton HK—a retro...
Firenze Lai says that she knows her studio of a few hundred square feet intimately; from the textures of its surfaces to the way the breeze blows into the room. The spaces depicted in her paintings are equally intimate. When curators seem to be at a loss for words to discuss troubled times, fear of containment, and the feeling of being completely...
In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...
Kim Chong Hak’s first exhibition with Perrotin pays homage to the artist’s extensive career, showcasing around 20 of his works, which include recent acrylic paintings, his representative works from the 1980s, and drawings never before displayed. Widely known as the 'Painter of Seorak', Kim evokes Mount Seorak—the third-highest mountain in Korea, situated in the east of the country–on his canvases with motifs from nature, such as flowers, insects, and weeds.
At the age of 82, Kim maintains a gestural way of making his art with coarse, rapid brushstrokes and with his hands, slathering paint on the canvas. Kim’s paintings introduce a distinct world where nature is rearranged according to the artist’s experience and sensations, bypassing temporal limits and cycles of life and death. His landscapes relinquish perspective and are intensely two-dimensional. Vines and weeds tangle luminously across the canvas; flowers bloom frontal-facing in various bright shades; dragonflies and butterflies fill the remaining gaps, resulting in dense compositions eliciting visceral awe.
In developing his unique style, Kim has his artistic development traced across three main periods. From 1960 to 1978, he explored and rejected Western modernism; from 1979 to 1986, he started combining nature with traditional Korean aesthetics. It was in 1987 and onwards, when Kim settled permanently in Mount Seorak, that he entered his period of maturity, embracing Mother Nature’s mountains, rivers, and oceans to construct his art.1
By incorporating Kim’s demonstrative works and drawings, the exhibition illustrates the evolution of his artistic discourse founded on revisiting the same subject matters. In the largest painting of the show, which is eight meters wide, Kim overtly references Weeds and River, two of his paintings from 1987 that also study the green and shrubby landscape now spanning the wall of the gallery. Alongside Kim’s monumental canvases, a series of drawings detail the beginnings of Kim’s practice for the first time. After his walks in Mount Seorak, Kim sketches, in pencil or ink, the impressions nature has made on him, morphing them into shapes, colours, and structures befitting his expressionist conception.
Kim considers his art 'new figurative painting based on abstract painting', building on his canvases an indiscriminate framework reflective of his devotion to even the tiniest of wonders. Mount Seorak is for Kim what Mont Sainte-Victoire is for Cézanne and Tahiti for Gauguin, and viewers grasp the sense of reverence Kim has for nature upon entering the gallery. There is a certain primitive exuberance in Kim’s larger than life vegetation that indicates renewal and rejuvenation, evoking the vigorous spirit of the artist and his joyous celebration of nature in all of its forms.
Kim Chong Hak (b. 1939, Shinuijoo, North Korea) is an eminent figure in contemporary Korean art. He has exhibited at Musee Guimet, Paris; Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo; and National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, among other leading institutions in Korea. His works are in several important collections, including Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul; and Busan Museum of Art, Busan, Korea.
1 Ryoung Lee, Finding the Path in the Mountain, 2011, catalog of 'Retro- spective', National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea
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