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Icon’s Place and Artist’s Atelier

2022. 6. 15 – 7. 12

Painting, life as an Artist

Now I am writing this in my atelier in Pyeongchon. I usually think of myself sitting in front of the canvas at this time, concentrating on my work. Creation, which requires skillful time management and high concentration, and repetition and concentration on every moment, succession of choices and quick judgment are sometimes tiring, but a day when I enjoy satisfactory work results is a joy that cannot be replaced with anything else in the world. The creative life that walks into one’s own world with concentration and immersion that no one knows when someone approaches makes me live my life as myself and not anyone else. Getting used to not being lonely all day long and being able to premiere in my own world even when the world is noisy is possible because I am an artist who goes deep into the canvas and creates my own world. In particular, the moment of immersion, where there is only the action of the moment when l am working, I feel that I am with God and feel joy. The scene of grass mowing by Levin, the main character of Anna Karenina, is the highlight of the novel, and the author Tolstoy’s view of “immersion” is well revealed.

…Levin had lost all sense of his time, and he had no idea if it was early or late. Now a change in his work has begun that has brought him great satisfaction. While he was at work, he would completely forget what he was doing and there would be moments when things suddenly became easier. At that very moment, the string he cut was as flat and stellar as the cheat sheet. But the moment he remembered what he was doing and tried to do it better, he felt the pain of labor and the lines became crooked… I couldn’t help but marvel at how well it explained the emotions and feelings. The great writer Tolstoy also shows the greatness of immersion and concentration through the farmer’s labor, mowing. I guess he may have directly applied the greatness of concentration he experienced through his writing work to mowing. I also wanted to experience the moment of immersion and to last forever so that each and every day I worked in my life would be filled with joy and festivals. But those perfect times don’t last long and don’t always. On the contrary, there are days when I blame myself for “what have I been painting all day?” because of poor time management and full of distractions as if wandering in the fog. When things don’t go as planned, I climb a mountain near my house and reads classic novels.

The Scenery of Meditation about Painting, 97×130.5cm, oil on linen, 2015-2017

I always do something that takes time before making an important decision or starting a new thing. Whether going to the mountains or walking through a park full of lush trees, nature will know how much I revere him. In nature, I quickly realize how much joy and pleasure are, and that I am infinitely narrow and arrogant, and that when I get bored with unwanted things in my daily life, my passion and the joy of creativity slip through my fingers in nature. The grass and flowers blooming in the mountains do not say, “It should bloom like this today and bloom like this next day” or “It will be nice if the branches are stretched this way”. They awaken me to inclusiveness and agape love, giving me the strength to continue my life and work. When I was young, I didn’t realize that when the artist’s life was exhausting and difficult, my soul dried up and my love was all gone. When you truly love something from the bottom of your heart, you feel that you are stronger than anything else in the world – Love here means agape love. You feel at peace and you can do anything.

When I was younger than I am now, I started working with the conviction that I would surprise the world by showing something with my paintings. But it didn’t happen as easily as you might think. Over the time if there is one thing that has changed and varied, it is my gaze and attitude toward the world. The thought that the better days would last forever is that everything has an end and that things in the world don’t last long. Everything has an end and is beautiful and precious to perish. I became a person who cherishes the strength of the present and the inner peace of this moment, rather than yesterday and tomorrow, because I have a pure love for my work of art after going through severe physical and mental suffering. Painting the world and scenery that I want to see through my own eyes has given me the strength to calmly endure the corona era as well. Each day, which seems to be a continuation of the same day, is a changing picture in front of me, telling me that yesterday is not the same as today, and that tomorrow will be a little better than today. It is a great blessing for the body to learn and remember the secret of the gift from continuity and durability.

Icon’s Place
Passing through the coronavirus-era, many people were fed up with loneliness. If loneliness comes from relationships with others and loneliness comes from ego, during this time I was not freed from both. But now, after enduring the hard time, COVID-19 has given me new wisdom. It is a time to enjoy solitude more and to get to know myself a little more through time alone. I have been interested in the life of a female star of the century since the day before the corona virus, and I paid attention to the unhappy personal life of Audrey Hepburn, who was loved by people around the world. Taking a look into the private lives of Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana and Jacqueline, they became icons of the century, but they weren’t happy when they became huge stars. What was the ultimate goal of their lives?

Audrey Hepburn’s Place, 116.7x252cm, oil on linen, 2020

Behind the star’s splendor, I wondered what the real figure behind the hidden veil was, and I started painting their rooms. Hepburn and Monroe, famous for a naive character and sex symbols, were huge bookworms. After her death, from her bookshelves, “Waiting for Godot” of Samuel Beckett, and Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams”, especially James Joyce’s Ulysses, was found which amazes her level of reading. The private appearance of these two women taking a break with the book is nowhere to be seen as a world-class actor in the Hollywood spotlight. This modest appearance is similar to ours. Painting on their daily resting space, world-class stars and ordinary people may pursue the same thing in their private lives after returning from work. I wanted to highlight this very point in my work. It sought peace and freedom, love, lightness and solitude, and loved reading. I, who has loved reading books since childhood, felt a strange sense of unity as a human being. In the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, I have come to realize that freedom is not freedom, that being together is not a matter of course, and that even if we are together, we need a different sacrifice and wisdom than before. Besides a few outings, the space they drew during the COVID-19 period, where they spent most of their time alone, brought me another meaning of life and peace.

Diana’s Bedroom, 112×145.5cm, oil on linen, 2021

If Monroe and Diana had been more faithful to the inner immersion and peace, their lives would have been different, and they would not have ended their lives alone, longing for the love they lacked in one person. In the room of Hepburn and Mother Teresa, I wanted to exclude material aspirations. Because their lives remind us of that fact. Hepburn’s life will live forever in our memories as she overcame the failure of three deprived marriages, went to a place of deprivation, sublimated it into agape love, and led her own life. In Hepburn’s room, the personal history of this side of the Icon is divided into three canvases, childhood, youth, and old age to express a still inner appearance.

Artist’s Atelier
The artist’s atelier series which has been introduced since 2005 at Brain Factory, and butterflies collection series first shown in Stone and Water, are still being attempted. The unfamiliarity of my atelier, which I entered one day in the early 2000s like any other day, and the interior scenery of my atelier, as if magnifying the depths of my inner self with a lens, is the source and motivation for painting the workspace/atelier, which is the cradle of the creations of Western masters whom I liked and admired. Paints and work pieces scattered throughout the atelier, music albums, books, posters, my paintings, and things I cherish metaphorically show the artist NAM KYUNG MIN. The artist’s atelier was drawn by imagination or by searching for materials in their atelier with childlike curiosity, wondering if the studios of Monet, Velázquez, Renoir and Modigliani presented in this exhibition would be the same. Facing and encountering with them in the painting heightens the vivid pleasure and interest.

Butterflies and the Canoe on the Epte by Monet, 89×130.5cm, oil on linen, 2021

The flow of butterflies in the painting is a medium that connects them and a stream of consciousness that symbolizes the artist’s self-consciousness. One day, while sitting on the sofa in my atelier, I dreamed that the Dutch painter Vermeer was living next door. So, I drew the painting ‘Illusion by Vermeer’, Vermeer’s atelier. Looking back, I put all my heart and energy into the artist’s atelier series, and I was deeply fascinated by it. Velázquez’s atelier is a work that pays homage to my love for ‘Las Meninas – the Handmaidens’. Although they were not contemporaries, Picasso also had the same heart as he admired Velázquez, so I allowed the two masters to meet in Velázquez’s atelier. Monet’s works, which appear frequently in my Artist’s Atelier series, become more affectionate and heart-felt as the years go by after becoming an artist. His style of painting fascinates me, full of wit and energy that makes viewers feel pure pleasure and joy. In this exhibition, against the backdrop of Monet’s work, butterflies tried to float in to the air for the first time.

Velazquez’s Atelier – Facing Picasso, 145.5x224cm, oil on linen, 2020

Velázquez, Renoir and Modigliani also meet in my canvases through paintings. Their paintings fully communicate with each and every soul. Because their painting is ‘themselves’. Those who have painted with all their heart know. A certain painting tells the very person, that no matter what the painting says, there is an energy that permeates into it, that you can enter the world and enjoy it at any time. Art clearly has the power to turn our weary life and monotony into vitality and small happiness. I hope that people who look at my paintings will also meet and communicate with masters through such bright energy of contemplation.

Renoir’s Atelier, 145.5x224cm, oil on linen, 2019

Allegory of Symbols and Metaphors
‘Strolling through the Night Scene by Artist N’ is an epic work that expresses my inner self as an artist as a night landscape. It is a painting that expresses inner satisfaction, a sense of unity with nature, detachment from my own quiet world of work, my hopes for painting in it, and the essence, value, and love of life. COVID-19 made me look back on my life as a full-time painter and talk to myself a lot. Delicate reflection and contemplation were also required for the various symbols that appeared in my paintings.

Strolling through the Night Scene by Artist N, 194x390cm, oil on linen, 2018_2022

Also in my paintings, butterflies are the medium of the soul. Butterfly is a spiritual insect with the meaning of prophet in Hebrew.
“Butterflies do not survive to eat or to grow old. Only love and survive to survive. To that end, the butterflies are dressed in unprecedented splendor and have wings many times larger than their bodies, which symbolize the secret of existence in colorful, refined language, in cutting lines, colors, secrets and fluffs. ” – Hermann Hesse
I quoted the words of Hermann Hesse, who perfectly empathize with the meaning and spiritual feeling of butterflies in my paintings. Somewhere in Europe, it is said that butterflies symbolize wealth and glory, but it is truly mysterious that their small and slender body has a rich influence on human affairs, both physically and spiritually. Perhaps the reason why I feel lighter and more relaxed when painting butterflies is because I paint butterflies at the final stage of the work. It feels as if my soul is being cleared, and at the end of one work, the vividness of the screen is heightened by painting a floating butterfly on the canvas.

The fragile transparent bottle is the artist’s delicate self-consciousness, and the cut wings are the unfulfilled dream, the dream cherished in the heart and the hope of aspirations. The newly extinguished candle and the burning candle are the present moment and eternity. The hourglass is a metaphor for permanence as well as extinction that everything has an end. The mirror is a tool for looking inside and reflecting, and the skull is the meaning of vanitas, while being faithful and happy in the here and now. The chair in the painting is the persona of the character and has a double meaning, symbolizing his absence.

However, the symbolic expressions listed here are only a prelude. It is the viewer’s responsibility to appreciate and interpret the painting, and I hope that it will be open to a wide variety of interpretations to suit the viewer’s mind. Paintings make it possible to meet and imagine the invisible world beyond the consciousness of the present moment, and to approach a larger world with an open mind. It is very enjoyable and interesting as an artist to expect that my paintings will be enriched with various open endings and interpretations by viewers.


67, Yulgok-ro 3-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
+82 2 730 7818

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