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Ceramic Painting Composed of Powerful and Delicate Gestures

Kang Sukyoung

Chaosmos#01, 53×33.3cm, oil on canvas, 2023

Kang Sukyoung has been constructing a world of abstract ceramics through his iconic slip casted white porcelain with a contemporary tone. The artist exerts a physical impact on the porcelain form which remains faithful to the formative principles. Such an impact, in turn, adds a random effect to the form which signifies his pursuit of artificial naturality. The pure white color achieved from sintering white clay in high temperatures and the un-glazed surface of the porcelain adds brevity and sensibility to the works, while the subtle gloss from the clay conveys the soft texture of the soil. The present exhibition mainly showcases his iconic minimal yet sensuous three-dimensional works and two-dimensional works that represent him as a painter.

Untitled, 자기소지, 18.0×18.3cm, 2023

His newest endeavor – that reminds us of abstract painting, landscape painting, impressionist, or all-over painting – rests on a ceramic plate made from a plaster mold. A process that involves crafting a thin flat ceramic plate at a high temperature of 1,300 degrees is not an easy task, particularly considering his predilection for casting techniques. The difficulty arises from the need to precisely calculate and predict the transformations of the form of the plate in all stages of forming, firing, and drying. It is precisely here that we witness the artist’s life-long devotion to ceaseless experiments and explorations of the material and technique of pottery. By tracing the process of his works – taking big strokes with a mixture of muddy water and pigment on the white ceramic plate – we experience a sense of motility and velocity as well as the trajectory of the artist’s body during such a process. The thick texture of the muddy water on the plate conveys the energetic gesture of the artist in the moment of striking the brush.

Untitled, 자기소지, 55.0×35.0cm, 2023

One striking difference that the present exhibition has from his previous shows is that he employed various colors as opposed to his former obsession with white from white clay. The series of works that exhibits a coverage of monotone colors on a ceramic plate is brought to us, in fact, not by painting, but by etching the surface with a sharp tool followed by strokes of pigmented muddy water that fill the plate with different shading, and a final pouring of muddy water on to the plate. As a result, a sensitive eye could see different textures on the plate and eventually understand how colors are not on the surface but on the inside of the plate. Such a process lets the viewer taste the depth of the works on multiple levels depending on their perspective or light. Some of the works have their textures and colors woven like warp and weft that give both visual and tactile satisfaction. As Western painters used the motif of the window as a tool of representation, each plate captures the essence of the changing seasons that the artist sees through the window in his studio. A green summer day, an autumn morning with leaves turning red, snow-white winter, and a gray, rainy spring day are all captured and represented like an oriental painting. The works that show the seasonal changes in total abstraction stand tall like a landscape painting with meticulous planning of the strokes.

Untitled, 자기소지, 53.5×66.5x14cm

As much as we see the actions and gestures of the artist in his original three-dimensional works where he intends a random effect by artificially giving force to a complete form, we see a sensitive and delicate movement of the artist in his strokes where he indulges in powerful ebullitions and/or where he controls his tempo and energy. As the artist himself argued – that his works are physically demanding as he uses the entirety of his body like a wrestler – Kang Sukyoung’s works reveal his performative approach to art, especially in the production process. Eventually, we learn that Kang Sukyoung’s sensuous yet minimal formative language derives from his restless studies of material and technique and the fierce yet delicate production process. His newest works show elements of both craft and painting and overlap both Western form and Eastern aesthetics. Such a coexistence must be interpreted as his will to creatively broaden the horizon of craft while remaining faithful to the role of a craftsperson.

Jihye Kim (Professor of Art, Ehwa Women’s University)


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