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b. 1929, South Korea

Kim Tschang-Yeul Biography

Kim Tschang-Yeul is a Korean contemporary artist known for his paintings depicting water drops that combine modes of photo-realism and Abstract Expressionism.

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Born in 1929 in Maengsan in what is now North Korea, during the Japanese occupation of Korea, Kim followed his family south, where he attended the College of Fine Art at Seoul National University between 1948 and 1950. In the mid-1950s, he became associated with the Korean Art Informel movement, which was noted for its embrace of abstraction in place of representational art and rejection of the academic, government-sponsored National Art Exhibition known as gukjeon.

After participating in the Paris Biennale in 1961 and São Paulo Bienal in 1965, Kim moved to New York, where he studied at the Art Students League. His early oil paintings, such as Phenomenon (1968) or Composition (1969), depict clusters of air bubble-like forms surrounded by rings of soft or opaque colours. These works signal Kim's departure from his contemporaries like Park Seo-Bo, Chung Chang-Sup, and Ha Chong-Hyun, whose experiments with abstraction tended towards an exploration of the surface and materiality of painting.

Settling in Paris in 1968, Kim began to create his iconic water drop paintings. His early oil-on-canvas work, Evénement de la nuit (1972), captures a single droplet against a black background; on the droplet shines a reflection of the moonlight on a window. Painted photo-realistically, Kim's water drop appears as though it will glide from the surface, but instead defies gravity and remains as it is. Such a state of ambiguity references the concept of balance in Buddhist and Taoist philosophies—the precarious balance that allows stationary water droplets to sustain their weight on the canvas.

Kim continues to paint water drops, tirelessly exploring different arrangements. These range from a patch of black paint portrayed on the surface of a rendered French newspaper, droplets meticulously portrayed on its surface (Waterdrops, 1986), to a group of raindrops on a wooden board in Bacchus (1998). In his 'Recurrence' series, which he began in 1989, the artist painstakingly adds to his water drops backgrounds made up of Chinese characters from The Book of 1,000 Characters, an instructive text for Chinese calligraphy. Some 'Recurrence' paintings, such as Recurrence PK 99006 (1999), show the characters locked neatly into a grid, while others, such as Recurrence SH10012 (2002), depict them in repeated fragments to the point that they appear abstract and indecipherable.

Kim has had solo exhibitions at Almine Rech Gallery, New York (2018); Gwangju Museum of Art (2014); National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (2012); and Busan Museum of Art (2009); among others. In Korea, he was honoured with The National Order of Cultural Merits in 2012. The Kim Tschang-Yeul Museum of Art, dedicated to his life's work, opened in Jeju Island in 2016.

Ocula | 2019

Kim Tschang-Yeul Featured Artworks

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Waterdrop by Kim Tschang-Yeul contemporary artwork
Kim Tschang-YeulWaterdrop, 1974Oil on canvas
45 x 41 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Recurrence by Kim Tschang-Yeul contemporary artwork
Kim Tschang-YeulRecurrence, 2005Oil on hemp cloth
61 x 73 cm
Dep Art Gallery Contact Gallery
Night by Kim Tschang-Yeul contemporary artwork
Kim Tschang-YeulNight, 2019Acrylic on paper
91 x 62 cm
Tina Kim Gallery Contact Gallery
Recurrence SPY 201202 by Kim Tschang-Yeul contemporary artwork
Kim Tschang-YeulRecurrence SPY 201202, 2011acrylic and oil on canvas
91 x 116.8 cm
P21 Contact Gallery
Recurrence by Kim Tschang-Yeul contemporary artwork
Kim Tschang-YeulRecurrence, 1992Acrylic and oil on canvas
162 x 130 cm
Pearl Lam Galleries Contact Gallery
Waterdrops 水珠 by Kim Tschang-Yeul contemporary artwork
Kim Tschang-YeulWaterdrops 水珠, 2009Oil on sand
162 x 97 cm
Pearl Lam Galleries Contact Gallery
Événement de la nuit by Kim Tschang-Yeul contemporary artwork
Kim Tschang-YeulÉvénement de la nuit, 1972Oil on canvas
161 x 161 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Gouttes d’eau by Kim Tschang-Yeul contemporary artwork
Kim Tschang-YeulGouttes d’eau, 2003Sand and oil on wood
195 x 130 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery

Kim Tschang-Yeul Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Zong-De An, Ren Ri, Carlos Rolón/Dzine, Su Xiaobai, Kim Tschang-Yeul, Accidents [Part I] at Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong
Closed
17 January–30 June 2020 Zong-De An, Ren Ri, Carlos Rolón/Dzine, Su Xiaobai, Kim Tschang-Yeul Accidents [Part I] Pearl Lam GalleriesPedder Street, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Kim Tschang-Yeul, New York to Paris at Tina Kim Gallery, New York
Closed
24 October 2019–25 January 2020 Kim Tschang-Yeul New York to Paris Tina Kim GalleryNew York

Kim Tschang-Yeul Represented By

Almine Rech contemporary art gallery in Brussels, Belgium Almine Rech Brussels, London, New York, Paris, Shanghai
P21 contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea P21 Seoul
Pearl Lam Galleries contemporary art gallery in Pedder Street, Hong Kong Pearl Lam Galleries Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai
Tina Kim Gallery contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Tina Kim Gallery New York

Kim Tschang-Yeul In Ocula Magazine

Kim Tschang-Yeul: Art Without Ego Ocula Conversation Kim Tschang-Yeul: Art Without Ego By Vivian Chui, New York

Kim Tschang-Yeul turns 90 this December, following an illustrious career that played a crucial role in bringing post-war Korean painting into the modern and contemporary art canon. Long celebrated for pensive depictions of water drops, the esteemed artist uses dual languages of abstraction and hyperrealism to articulate the psychological traumas...

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Kim Tschang-Yeul In Related Press

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A Modern Trompe L’Oeil Painter Related Press A Modern Trompe L’Oeil Painter 9 November 2019, Hyperallergic

Kim Tschang-Yeul (b. 1929), a towering figure of Korean modern art, is best known for his trompe l'oeil depictions of pristine water drops beaded on either a monochromatic surface or raw linen. As Kim Tschang-Yeul: New York to Paris, at Tina Kim, underscores, it was while living he was living in New York that his work began to change, leading...

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KIM TSCHANG-YEUL Related Press KIM TSCHANG-YEUL 4 July 2018, ArtAsiaPacific

Artist Kim Tschang Yeul has been painting water drops for more than 45 years. What began as a spark of inspiration soon became a signature motif that differentiated him from his Korean compatriots. With nearly two dozen paintings spanning half a century of work on view, the retrospective at Almine Rech Gallery New York traced the visual...

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Hong Kong's Art Central Fair Won't Shy Away From Controversial Commentary Related Press Hong Kong's Art Central Fair Won't Shy Away From Controversial Commentary 28 February 2018, Forbes

Donald Trump will make an appearance of sorts at this year’s Art Central fair in Hong Kong. Visitors will find him in a 1930s-style living room hidden among the gallery booths filled with abstract paintings and polished sculptures. When people enter the homely space, they'll be asked to sit down, make themselves comfortable and turn on the vintage...

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Exploring the purifying properties of water: Kim Tschang-yeul’s Jeju museum opens with refreshing exhibit Related Press Exploring the purifying properties of water: Kim Tschang-yeul’s Jeju museum opens with refreshing exhibit 21 March 2017, Korea JoongAng Daily

JEJU - Water remembers everything and leads people to meditate, but at the same time it helps people wash off pain, fury and fear: this could be what the artworks now on view at a new exhibition at the Kim Tschang-yeul Museum on Jeju island tell together.

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