b. 1952, South Korea

Kang Kyungkoo Biography

From abstracted scenes of dark forests to a solemn gathering of human figures in water, Kang Kyungkoo's ink drawings and paintings radiate a sense of vitality and dynamism as embedded in nature.

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Early Years

Kang studied at Seoul National University, graduating with a BFA in 1981 and an MFA in 1984, and held his first solo exhibition in Seoul in 1987. Recurring subjects in Kang's works from the late 1980s and 1990s include the well-known mountains and old palaces of Seoul, as well as human figures with elongated faces and ambivalent expressions, rendered in ink and colour on Korean paper or hanji.

Kang Kyungkoo Artworks

Fluidity pervades Kang Kyungkoo's paintings on paper and canvas, which engage with the play of light and shadow, luminosity, and transparency in their depictions of natural landscapes. Kang oscillates between figuration and abstraction, exploring the point at which familiar forms begin to obscure.


Among Kang's most known work is 'Forest', ongoing since the early 2000s, a series of paintings and drawings consisting of fluid and gestural lines that describe the various plant life in a forest. Unlike his earlier paintings of mountains in Seoul, Kang's 'Forest' works are not based on a specific site, attempting to portray the notion of a forest as dark, mysterious, but also full of life.

Human figures sometimes feature in the forest, as with the ink painting In the Woods (2000), in which four figures appear almost indistinguishable from the surrounding foliage. In later graphite powder drawings from 2018, titled Forest, the figures are pale grey against the black mass of trees that tower over them.


In his 2014 solo exhibition at Space K, Seoul, Kang used the metaphor of floating in water to explore humanity's fragility against nature and destiny. Red and blue dominate the 14 acrylic paintings included in the show, alongside highlights of yellow, green, and white. Each painting portrays Kang's characteristically elongated human figures. Rendered with little individualisation between them, the figures stand in water as a group, facing somewhere off the canvas or towards the viewer with quiet, contemplative expressions.


Kang continues to paint mountains, dissecting their forms into planes of monochromatic or vibrant colours. The same round mountain ridge of Inwangsan in Seoul, for example, repeats across a group of paintings from 2019, each differing from one another in the geometric shapes into which the artist has divided the mountain.


Kang Kyungkoo has held numerous solo and group exhibitions.

Solo exhibitions include Wooson Gallery, Daegu (2022); White Block, Seoul (2018); Gallery SoSo, Paju (2015); Space K, Seoul (2014).

Group exhibitions include ARTBIT Gallery, Seoul (2018); Zaha Museum, Seoul (2015); National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (2014).


Kang's website can be found here.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2022

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