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I want to capture the trace of time, the flow of time, on the canvas

ARTIST INSIDE 2022 | Kwangbum Jang

I want to capture the trace of time, the flow of time, on the canvas

Kwangbeom Jang accumulates time on his canvases.
The layers of paint that have been added and removed look like mountains, sometimes water and fire.
It is the texture of time that resembles nature.
The landscapes may also be aspects of everyday life that we have not seen.
The smooth screen resembles a doorknob that has been touched by countless hands over the years, a piece of stone that has been smoothed by footsteps.
“I want to show the texture of time that has been slowly polished in our everyday lives,” says the artist.
In these days of fleeting moments, the artist reminds us of the passage of time through the act of repetition.

I know you’ve been working in France since 2007. Your work is reminiscent of East-Asian landscape paintings at first glance.

The overlapping layers of paint reveal themselves as lines, so it might be reminiscent of an East-Asian landscape painting. I’ve always loved hiking since I was a kid and there are so many mountains in Korea. When I climb a mountain, I feel like I’m one with it at some point. The mountain breathes the same as me. Maybe such experiences can manifest in works that resemble the shape of mountains. But I didn’t necessarily intend for them to have a Korean connotation. We often think of East and West as a dichotomy, but there are also many meditative works in European contemporary art. I think the distinction between East and West is becoming more and more irrelevant.

The layers of paint look like the rings of a tree.

When I was studying abroad, I was wandering around the atelier of an art school. My friend explained to me that this space is used for student exhibitions twice a year, and that it’s 100 years old. Normally, it’s used as a workshop and is covered in all sorts of paint, but when the exhibitions are held, the entire wall is painted white. So, there’s 100 years of paint that’s layered on top of each other. That’s when I realized. I realized that not only in nature, but also in life, there is a temporality that is visually measurable. I’ve been working with that inspiration ever since.

I’m curious about your process and how you capture the texture of time.

I lay the canvas down and apply at least 10 coats of acrylic paint so that you can’t see any of the fabric. I add several colors on top of that, allowing one color to air dry completely before adding a new one. I repeat the drying and painting process about 100 times. Then I use a grinder to remove the layers of paint. Depending on the technique, you get different shapes.

The layers of paint in your studio are like sedimentary layers, but are you trying to create a smooth, flat surface on your canvas?

In France, there are cobblestones called pavé, that line the roads. They’re cube-shaped stones that have been in place since the Gallo-Roman period, and the streets that are heavily traveled are now covered with asphalt. Sometimes you can see the pavement underneath where the asphalt has been removed, and the stones are no longer rough and square, but rounded and smooth from wear. I want my work to reflect the texture of the polished surface of everyday life, the texture of that time.

Interview by Heaseung Kang, published on Kiaf 2022 Catalogue