Lee Ufan. Inhabiting Time

 From 27th February to 30th September 2019, Centre Pompidou Metz presents "Lee Ufan. Inhabiting Time" the exhibition of Lee Ufan’s oeuvre from the late 60s to the recent period.  This retrospective exhibition focus on how his artistic language of Dansaekhwa (Korean Monochrome Painting) developed through over 50 years. Through his philosophical approach to art, he is always trying to capture the sensitive relationship between the inner and outside, energy and stasis to evoke the idea of time and Asian aesthetics. So, The show deals with to present how his one of works influences to the next works as a sense of phase and series.  Based on questioning to himself about material, media, and form of work, Ufan leads himself to be challenged and evolved his artistic vocabulary. 

In the case of western cultures have a great interest in an individual element named as independence, but Asian cultures have a strong collective tendency form of interdependence. That may be why the basis of Eastern ideology is concentrated on nature that harmony between nature and human emotions is considered as the best aesthetic and ethical value. Ufan’s Dansaekhwa is the best example of accumulated ideas of aiming the unity with nature, which is far different from Western monochrome painting. So, Ultimately, what he is seeking is the discovery of the fundamental meaning that is inherent in the production process of drawing the line with emptying the mind rather than the formative outcome. 

Arguably, through those processes of works, it reveals the relationship between the world, things, and human beings that Dansaekhwa artist eventually tries to explore. Moreover, each of work leads the viewer to experience the immediate emotional connection with the environment except just looking the one work. In other words, his almost meditated work invites the viewer to become slow down and take a step backward from the world.

*This essay is selected as published writing to SIMPL MAG.


Kim Tschang-yeul, Waterdrop, the Bearer of the Soul

Kim Tschang-yeul Art Museum Jeju presents Waterdrop, the bearer of the soul from November 6th, 2018 to September 29th, 2019.  The exhibition focused on exploring the oeuvre of Kim Tschang-yeul’s that helps viewers to understand the tendency of development of his works. 

Tschang-yeul is Korean artist, who is well known as water drop artist. At the beginning of his career, he worked on abstraction, but after staying at New York, he turned into realism and began to work on water drop series under the influence of minimalism and pop art.  This water drop series is not only just an element that considers aesthetic parts, but it is also a series of paintings derived from the terrible experience of the Korean War.  As like the experience of the body that was shot or the body that was trampled, it is started with the symbolic expression of the scar of Korean history. As the original form of pain and injury evolved, the series of water drop created and developed into Tschang-yeul’s original artistic language. 

His work has developed into various ways, from the bright and splendid water droplets with intense cohesion to water droplets on the verge of permeating the background of the canvas because of the loosening of surface tension. His painting holds the moment that is almost gone, just as like the droplets of water burst and then stopped on the surface. It is the painting that plays with the boundaries between the existence and absence, and the work of expressing the tension in between them. Furthermore, his water drop is not a fact, but it is an optical illusion of water drop. It is a harmony of objects and idea and the painting that explores the subtleties between those relationships. 

Lucian Freud: Monumental

Acquavella Gallery presents Lucian Freud: Monumental, which demonstrates Lucian Freud’s oeuvre of his well-known naked portraits, from April 5 to May 24, 2019. The exhibition includes 13 major works of Freud’s from the 1990s to 2000s, and those works are included the paintings of the most significant models for Freud.

Freud is a figurative painter; inspired by the impressive physicality of performance artist Leigh Bowery, Freud began a series of works that emphasize the physical presence of models. For him, the portrait begins with his idea that for all human beings, the naked body is complete honesty.

Arguably, his handling of the surface of the paintings is one of the essential elements to savor in his works. The thick brushstrokes emphasize the intensity of the subject, which encourages the viewer to focus on observing the subject immediately rather than the external judgment. The weight derived from this application of paints organizes and balances the tension of the whole painting. In other words, the rough and thick texture of his brushstrokes is not like a traditional Renaissance painting’s embodiment of figure as a seamless surface, but his work exposed the figure itself as a powerful being that pulls the physicality of the figure to confront the viewer. Furthermore, confronting the figure by physical application of paint with the spectrum of colors between the cold tone of colors on shadow part of bodies and warm tone of colors on the bright part of figures brings the subject matter plainly that causes the sense of honesty of bodies that Freud intentionally wanted to evoke.

Except in some of the paintings of closed-eye figures, the people in his paintings are staring straight of the viewer with serious, seemingly intimidating look. The expression of gazing of these figures existing between strange beauty and unattractiveness, almost seems like visual aggression, even give the uncomfortable feelings to the viewer. These are his devices to emphasize the existence of the figure itself, not the creation of aesthetic value through the beautification. Affirmatively, his consistency of translating his immediate perceptions of figures onto the canvas without the beautification of body, cause the portraits that are complete honesty as the figure is.

Suh Seung Won: Simultaneity 1970-Present

From January 25 to April 19, 2019, the group of the Korea Society in New York with Raphael Rubinstein, who is an art critic and curator, presented the exhibition of famous Korean modern artist, Suh Seung Won, who led Dansaekhwa movement, also known as Korean Monochrome Painting.

 Dansaekwha is different from the American Monochrome painting in a point of what culture and spirit they contained. The beauty of moderation is the ideology that Dansaekhwa artist is fundamentally emphasizing on their works that began in the age of political oppression at Korea in the late 20th century. Because of the social and political oppression even on individual’s expression, besides expressed the extreme expression and tension on the surface like abstract expressionists did, Dansaekhwa artist limited themselves as to simply repeated mark making and action on the painting to beyond the state of spirituality.

 Arguably, Suh Seung Won is one of the first generations of pioneering Dansaekwha movement with Park Seo-bo, Kwon Young-woo, and Lee Ufan. As expanding his career as a Korean monochrome artist, he explored the continued and meditated series of Dansaekwha works by focusing on interactions between geometric forms and surface. Based on spirituality shown in repeated behavior, he served as a monochromatic language that guides the viewer to the conscious world with his works richly spread colors and lights. Over half of the century, he expressed the spirituality of Korean culture and tradition as focusing on the materiality on the surface of a painting. For the establishment of a world of nirvana, which is an intangible phenomenon that transcends human’s consciousness, Suh’s works evoke the soft and ambiguous space through the physical medium of the painting. The overlaying of his white-based color on canvas, which seems like the lump clouds or the evening glow that reflected on the surface of the water, cause the simultaneity of expressing the traditional Korean spirituality and aesthetics of moderation. The simultaneity is the essence of his soft and ambiguous surface of work that has been maintained for more than 50 years. For Suh, the consistency of exploring his artistic language is completed through the unification of geometric form, soft surface, and white-based color.


Joan Miro: Birth of the World


The Museum of Modern Art presents Joan Miro: Birth of the World on February 24th to June 15th, 2019. The exhibition included Joan Miro’s diverse kinds of surrealistic paintings and drawings. Miro is known as the master of surrealism, which is an artistic movement that emphasized and explored the unconsciousness and relationship between dream and reality.

Undoubtedly, surrealist’s ideas of exploring the unconsciousness of human thought and dream are highly based on Sigmund Freud’s ‘Topographic Theory,’ which described the features of the mind’s structure and function as three ways, and ‘Interpretation of Dream.’ As like Freud thought the unconscious as the real cause of most behavior of human and storage of wishes, desires, memories, emotions and all of the mental energy, surrealists, which include Miro, kept pushing them to reveal the philosophical phenomena of unconsciousness on their artworks.

One of his signature work, “Birth of the World,” which is also the title of the exhibition and reflected his work’s characteristic of poetic formation of space and inviting to unconscious dream area, features at the exhibition. In detail, Joan Miro’s works featuring as his dark, and simultaneously contrast intense bright colors with abstract forms, have an aspect of primitivism at first glance, but on a closer view, it has much more complexity and philosophical thinking under its simplicity. Furthermore, his works could be evaluated as an expression of surrealistic fantasy embellishing with a sense of humor caused by overflowing of curves and colors. Also, simple forms and colors are placed on the screen of the canvas as a rhythmic way, and it gives an intimacy to the sense of formability. These fantasy techniques derived from his created hieroglyphics forms of elements can even arouse a sense of humor, which is also one of the essential characteristics of his paintings. 

Those aesthetics and beauties came out from Miro’s application of opaque colors and using of his formative elements on his unique painting promoted the development of modern art toward the next step. Furthermore, the contemplation of looking into implicit of unconsciousness evokes viewers to immerse them to think about their inner side too.

Mark Rothko at Kunsthistorisches Museum

Kunsthistorisches Museum presents Mark Rothko, who is one of the pioneers of abstract expressionists and opened up new vistas of modern art, for the first time as an exhibition in Austria. The exhibition is paying attention to an overview of his career of art from his early figurative works of the 1930s, and his well-known ‘Multi-Form’ abstract paintings of the 1950s to 1960s.

 Rothko’s most popular style called ‘Multi-Form’ is his skill that creates multi different rectangular color shapes on the huge solid color layered canvas, which creates ambiguous boundaries between one rectangular form and the others by using lots of turpentine oil. On his color field painting, the clump of color on the vague boundary that permeated on the vast canvas expressed the essential sensibility of human, and it further evoked the sublime spirit and inner emotions through the remarkably restrained image. This application of color field painting is derived from his intention to explore ideas of expression of human emotions as he said that he only had interested to express emotions of human such as sorrow, tragedy or ecstasy. Moreover, he wanted visitors to interact with his paintings and share the emotions that he tried to evoke.

 This method of filling the canvas through after geometrically dividing a large canvas as horizontally and vertically color forms by using oil paint had produced dramatic and poetic effects to viewers. Furthermore, the edge of ambiguous square form, which looks like a horizontal line, produces a strange effect that seems to come toward to viewer and simultaneously move away from the viewer. Thus, this uniqueness of his color field paintings derived from 'Multi-Form' technique was his discovery of the enormous legacy of how painting could be expressed toward the next step.      

Thus, the exhibition formed as to how this Rothko’s thinking about how the painting as the materials that could translate the natural human emotions and his expression about it changed through the time passed on his artistic career.

 One: Do Ho Suh at the Brooklyn Museum

The exhibition One: Do Ho Suh curated by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at Brooklyn Museum, is now showing fabulous Korean Artist, Do Ho Suh’s work from October 12, 2018, to May 5, 2019. The principal works called The Perfect Home II is located at the center of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, 5th Floor. Visitors are allowed walking through the inside of his sculptural installation during Saturdays and Sundays.

Do Ho Suh’s The Perfect Home II deals with the sensitive relationship between personal and public space. By using Korean traditional transparent fabric and stitching, he delicately recreated the area where he lived in his New York apartment. It is the shifting of his territory, memory and time into the particular spot. By transferring the space, he created a nomadic place that transcends the general concept of a place that usually is fixed in a specific area and location. Transparent cloth reveals the inside and outside of the image that leads to the transforming of the original spaces that should naturally be heavy and hard looking. Audiences are given a new experience of mixing between in and outside the area and at the same time in the private and public territory.

When The Perfect Home II was displayed at the Brooklyn Museum, the work was placed in a wide-open space, and above the piece, there was also wide-open slot existing. By giving this open field, Do ho’s personal space has been successfully put into the public area at the Brooklyn Museum individually to evoke imponderable memory and time of each viewer’s own particular spot and time.