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2021. 11. 12 – 12. 30
Taeksang Kim

Reincarnation in light and color

Aurora-2021-9,water acrylic on canvas,131x132cm,2021

I couldn’t resist staring at the low saturated side of Kim’s work. The colored canvas that radiated even though it wasn’t glittering, shimmered like a mist. There wasn’t barely any difference in seeing the work with my eyes wide open, or with my eyes half-closed as if I was meditating. My thoughts had escaped elsewhere, and the thought itself seemed to have come to a standstill. It felt like I was feeling the light rather than the color itself. The color did not overwhelm me like Ad Reinhardt’s painting, nor did the painting absorb me like Barnett Newman or Mark Rothko’s works. The light flowed like a fog in a form of color and a tactile feeling seeped into me like Robert Ryman’s white painting or James Turrell’s installation.

Rothko said we should look at his work from a distance of 45 centimeters and Barnett Newman said 1 meter, but with Kim’s work, one can look at it from any distance that he or she may like. There were instances when small works were seen better when gazed from afar and big works were looked better at on the border with other paintings. After a certain amount of time passes after gazing at the painting, one can feel a subtle variation in the color. I felt confused with the unique three-dimensionality and the movement of the colors. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like my thoughts were getting tangled up. After the visual perception approaches as a very phenomenal synthetic sense, it works by being reverted to a specific color. Therefore, it is a painting and an exhibition that we have no choice but to accept the feeling of vitality as we look at it as if it were a blank slate. This is the exact feeling I got when I saw the exhibition, Between Color and Light held at Leeahn Gallery in Seoul in the winter 2019.

When a piece of linen is left in the water that acrylic pigment has been dissolved in for about 2-3 days, the adhesive in the pigment dissolves in the water and only the particles are implanted on the canvas cloth. It does not work like dye that has been permeated in the linen, it works like pigment that is lightly adhered to the linen. After taking the colored canvas out of the water and drying it, the work is immersed in water with acrylic pigment dissolved again. This routine is repeated for about 20-30 times creating 20-30 layers of colors on the canvas. Even when the saturation is lowered by the watery color of pigment, the flat color seems three-dimensional by the space created between layers and there is a mysterious halo created as if the color radiates.

Resonance-21-6,water acrylic on canvas,184x188cm,2021

The title of the exhibition ‘daam’ is a character made up of Chinese characters referring to water and fire. Flame burns beautifully and become ashes, and the remaining ashes are mixed with water. Considering that ink or classic pigments are made up of carbon, ‘daam’ is a visual device that creates color with pure water without impurities, just as distilled water. For Kim, water is more than just an important means and method of adjusting the tone and saturation of color. It is not unreasonable to regard it as a medium of art like pigment. Water is an integral part of his work considering the operation of daam, where the light absorbed by the water penetrates the water. The shades of color controlled by water are bounded by the translucent layers created by the repeated process, enriching the effect of color-development. This is due to the light absorbed by water, that is, the light penetrating into water, bouncing off of the bottom of the canvas, scattering the color, seeping in and creating depth. Kim reproduced the phenomenon of the decomposition of natural light through color, materialized light, and presented his painting as a reality by replacing nature with reality. As we experience his works materially, we get a sense that the canvas surface becomes light like air, and the experience in the space and time in which these works are displayed are very unfamiliar to our daily experiences.

The Four Seasons Project held at Gallery Aso for a year in 2018, Daegu, was an attempt to excessively expand the reality of nature, which had been confined within the frame of a plane canvas, to space and time. By evoking a new sensitivity to light, water and wind, the time and space in which the exhibition takes place was created like a work of installation artworks. As Kasimir Malevich, known as the master of monochrome, said, “A colored plane is a living form of reality,” Kim revealed the reality of Malevich through his senses and methods. If Malevich declared the concept of absolutism as a world created by itself in time and space without following any aesthetic norms, experiences, or trends by making color independent of painting, Kim artistically embodied the colors emitted by living things in his canvas as a materialistic world composed of water, light, wind and carbon. Whereas Wassily Kandinsky viewed paintings as “essentially a two-dimensional surface covered with colors gathered by a certain order,” Monochrome artists cover not only the front side of the canvas, but the entire canvas with color making a flat work not a plane, but an object. Although Kim’s paintings maintain a planar form, the effect of the two-dimension permeates the space and takes over the space in a specific way, breaking down the boundary between the plane and the object.

Breathing light-Gentle breeze 2021-2,water acrylic on canvas,97.5x102cm,2021

Kim has been working in relation to the long-standing monochromatic painting tradition of artists from Malevich to Robert Ryman. In addition to simply covering the entire canvas with a single color, rather than trying to create something new in the way of making a piece of artwork, Kim reveals the existing things in a new way, or uses his hands to create an expressive process in which emotions are shown, which is inherited by the characteristics of monochrome painting. There is no trace of the artist’s autobiographical expression, and there is no indexical gesture that evokes the artist’s presence. It is also monochrome in that it is created using mechanical tools rather than created by hand or spray.

However, if we take a closer look at Kim’s wok and examine the Monochrome art movement, and the context of its flow, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with monochrome at all. There is no motive, or position for Kim to work in a monochrome style. The context is also completely different. The emergence of monochrome in the history of Western art stems from the desire to absolutely stop painting based on the illusory vision constructed by geometrical perspective, and to start again at the beginning of art history. Monochrome is the last non-object painting that attains perfect pictorial purity, and at the same time becomes the first work that begins as an object. It is in the same sense that Rothko called his painting, “the first universal painting of a truly non-modern style, free from all styles.” However, Kim had no reason to remove illusions from his paintings. As much as a modernist painting, which he learned and accepted in a non-Western society, has always been a new beginning, he has no desire or fantasy for the purity and origin of painting. Since childhood, Kim has been fascinated by the colors of nature and built a world of his own senses with colors, and only materially and visually unfolded the images engraved on those senses. Color is inherently deceptive. That is because it does not show what it is by itself. There is an unavoidable gap between perceived and recognized colors. Kim has been working in the gap, sensitively responding to the inconsistency between physical facts and psychological effects. While observing and experimenting with color for a long time, he reverted his own perceptual experience to phenomenological experience and revealed it pictorially. This position and attitude indicates that the discourse has been working in a completely different context from the current flow of Dansaekhwa present in front of the work, and the difference will be clearly demonstrated in this exhibition at Leeahn Gallery Seoul.
Kim Woong Ki: Art Critic

Leeahn Gallery Daegu
188-1, Icheon-ro, Jung-gu, Daegu, Korea
+82 53 424 2203

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