One Breath - Infinite Vision, an Exhibition of Korean Ink Art

Exhibition Dates: July 10 - August 16, 2019
Opening Reception: July 17, 2019, 6 - 8 pm

Korean Cultural Center New York
460 Park Ave. 6th Floor, New York

Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 am - 5 pm

Korean Cultural Center New York is pleased to announce One Breath - Infinite Vision, an exhibition of Korean Ink Art, guest curated by Yu Yeon Kim.

The exhibition includes seventeen works by eleven Korean artists, Choi Ildan, Cho Duck Hyun, Hyun-joo Jang, Jeong Gwang Hee, Kim Ho Deuk, Kim Jong Ku, Kim Sundoo, Lee In, Lim Hyun-Rak, Lim Oksang, and Yooah Park.

Korean ink art is notable for a poignancy of expression that derives as much from its portrayal of the physical world as it does from an inner space – a quantity that is both abstract and spiritual. While some of the works in this exhibition reflect the classical rendering of calligraphic and landscape art, others translate these traditions through Abstract painting, sculpture, video installation and other media.

One Breath - Infinite Vision presents a concept of contemporary Korean ink art that incorporates the past, present and the future not chronologically but as an equivalent time plane. The title refers to that point when brush is applied to paper without hesitation or retreat – as an exhalation that creates, with that spontaneous and poetic gesture. avision of humanity's relationship to nature and the infinite.


About the Artists

Jeong Gwanghee’s (b. 1971) labor intensive work has a strong relationship to the philosophical and aesthetic traditions of ink art while also referencing Abstract Art and contemporary installation art. His paintings “In a Bamboo Forest” is created by brushing ink over a surface created by the outer edges of painstakingly wrapped paper panels printed with text – comprised of pages from old books. These are stacked and bound tightly together to produce a contiguous surface. Thus he creates calligraphy or markings across the undulating surface consisting of partially revealed characters in its folds juxtaposing the purposeful act of applying ink to paper with what is incidentally revealed and hidden in its surface. The artist has described as part of his intention a need to examine and hold to question accepted knowledge and conventional belief and in doing so to doubt himself as he extends the envelope of his artistic language.

Lee In (b. 1959) has transformative encounters with nature's materials, in particular stone. His fascination with stone stems from his father, who collected rocks and his series, “Paint It Black” refers to this. In these paintings the artist has created the image of a singular stone on a white ground by applying layers of black ink. The process and the resulting image is an existential reflection of time and descendance. The ink is ground, like a rock – the rock connects to his father, and to the artist's ancestors. The artist considers stone the foundation and support of his home and that which protects the land from the ocean. In covering or rendering stone with black ink the artist thinks of it as a way of healing pain,sadness and conflict inducing calm and as an expression of existence.

Kim Sun Doo’s (b. 1958) "Longing for Nature" and "Slow Landscape" series cannot be fully understood without visiting the Namdo in the province of Jeolla, Korea where the artist spent his childhood. The artist is a poet, writer, and painter who creates extraordinary, elegant, and lyrical renditions of landscape in paintings and writing. The artist considers writing a part of the process of creating an image – as a way of unraveling memory as in a scroll. The artist employs the Jangi method in creating his paintings – in which many layers of ink are applied so that the colors and marks applied beneath come to the surface. He uses multiple points in a perspective technique to encapsulate various views of a vast landscape. But by using an inverse perspective the artist captures space from his subjective viewpoint within that landscape.  This results in freely drawn lines that capture space and time as if seen by multiple viewers.

Kim Hodeuk (b. 1950) is an acclaimed pioneering artist who has pushed the envelope of ink painting. His abstracted landscape ink painting pays homage to traditional techniques while being uniquely contemporary.  Kim's landscape paintings are conceptually minimal yet bold and spontaneous. He applies ink in a brush stroke that is a singular psychically expressive act. Since a continued illness the artist has emphasized this momentary expression as emblematic of importance of each moment of existence. His painting, "San" depicting a terrain of hundreds of mountains, alludes to a state of being that transcends any juncture bound by time and space.

Cho Duck Hyun's (b. 1957) sculpture and installations explores values that differentiate all aspects of our perceived realities - that of fiction and non-fiction, real and fake etc. He does this by adopting the roles of archivist and archaeologist in order to delve into the social and personal legacies of Korean history.

Cho Duck Hyun's "The Garden of Sound" is inspired by the music of renowned Korean composer Yun I-sang (1917-1995) whose life spanned the Japanese occupation of Korea, the Korean War and the ultimate division of Korea into two separate and politically incompatible states. The work is more than a reminiscence of the composer's work – but an examination of poignant associations relative to the  composer's life. For political reasons the composer was never able to return to his hometown and died in Berlin an exile in 1995. In 2018 his body was finally brought to South Korea and buried in his hometown of Tongyeong to which he had so longed to return.

Lim Hyunrak’s ink painting deals with being, existence, and the principle value of life. This philosophical outlook is compounded in the minimalist use of the brush – as a “one stroke” in which is focused a momentary action. While the process is seemingly simple it requires a meditative state of mind and a discipline of practice in which spiritual expression is sublimated.

The artist leaves areas of white space in his work, yet these are not empty as the vigour contained in the one brush stroke resonates throughout the entire surface of the work rendering the seemingly vacant areas as conceptually significant. The viewer considers this white space in relation to the single brush stroke and completes the work with a realization of suspended time and the existential presence of their being. Hence the art work induces in the viewer a state of philosophical self-reflection.

Kim Jongku (b. 1963) substitutes iron powder for ink in his calligraphic installations. He creates his works by pouring the iron to spell words in the form of traditional ink brush calligraphy. By using a material that is symbolic of the civilization of the industrial age and its association with power, economy and war, his calligraphic art undergoes a profound transformation of meaning.

This is depicted in his performance, "Mobile Landscape," in which the act of creating the installation with iron filings is projected onto a wall from ground level so that the raised profile of the words appear to form landscapes. The works also reference the impermanent Mandala paintings in Tibetan art that are swept or washed away after they are created. While these works are generally impermanent they sometimes oxidize and leave a trace of the calligraphy that incidentally creates another aspect of the process of change brought about by time.

Lim Oksang (b. 1950) is one of the leading artists of the Minjung (People's) Movement of public art. His works - painting, calligraphy, sculpture and performance - poignantly relate a vulnerable human presence and the importance of the individual and continues to assert the relevance of the Minjung Movement to the present by addressing a diverse range of topics. Lim's work reflects the inextricable Yin and Yang principles of Taoist philosophy. The five elements of Taoist metaphysics which Lim uses as a metaphor for a psychological, social and political state of being - expressive of a land that is wounded by industrial exploitation without regard to the environment and to the oppression of its people.

"Falling Water" has historical significance with regard to the suffering experienced by the Korean people, through repression, conflict and the struggle against authoritarian governments.   The work directly references a famous work, “ Bakyeon Fall,” by Jeong Seon (1676-1759), . Lim has replaced the depiction of water in the “true view landscape” painting of Jeong Seon with the insertion of a red fabric that runs through the landscape like a river of blood.   

“Heurk” is a series of calligraphic symbols carved in a clay as one gesture of the artist's fingers.  In this ongoing series of works the artist uses his fingers, sticks or even a shovel over a ground formed of accumulated layers of soil, straw, mulberry paper (Hanji) and water to alternately soften or make incisive marks expressive of the immediacy of his mind acting on the material like wind on a landscape.

Choi Ildan is a notable artist who witnessed and lived through the Japanese occupation of Korea, the Korean War and the social and political upheaval of Korea as it went through decades of transformation, to life abroad as part of the Korean diaspora. The artist freely uses various medial in her work including painting, sculpture, fabric, ceramics and installation to create complex and intricate narratives.

Her ceramic forms have a fluidity that suggests bodily or animal forms in which the impression of the hand is evident. By contrast, her hand sewn fabric collages have a transparency and intricacy of form. The artist created “Whirlwind” (featured in this exhibition) by drawing with a rooster's feather. Unlike a traditional ink brush, a feather does not have a point but rather creates multiple incidental lines regardless of the artist's intention . "Whirlwind" is expressive of the artist's past life, her present one and the uncertainty of the future. The drawing suggest figures and landscapes – a macrocosm containing trees, rocks, animals and birds a cycle of life which encompasses both the experience of joy and loss, of birth and death.

Jang Hyun Joo, following her studies in the Western technique oil painting at Ehwa University, Seoul, started using ink as a medium and studied traditional Korean painting in order to find a new way of expressing the relationship between nature and humans. The landscapes she creates are about the transformative principles of nature in which rocks and mountains become flowers, grasses and trees whose roots become roads.

The artist works by applying charcoal and ink to a wood support and erases or creates washes into the drawing by applying Gofun (ground oyster shell that is mixed with water to make a paste).

The artist regards her landscapes as a space in which time and memory are compressed. The grey washes in her drawings become an indefinite mist in which perspectival space is flattened, leaving the viewer with the sense that distance exists beyond the flattened plane which prevents it from being perceived. Thus there is a sense of mystery in these works, of a space the exists beyond what is apparent, of past, present and future as one.

Park Yooah (b. 1961) initially studied Eastern art and in particular ink painting. Her artistic practice then evolved to encompass various media, including Performance, Video art, painting, sculpture and multimedia installations. The concepts in her work may derive from philosophical, psychological, emotional, historical, societal or political concerns.      Her work is expressive of her own diasporic experience as well as conveying the tensions of a nation that has transited from occupation and conflict to a technologically advance democratic state. That preoccupation has included the changing nature of familial relationships and ancestral and filial loyalty which she has addressed in performance. "King's Road" is a road, traditionally used for royal ancestral rites,  that transverses North and South Korea through the center of Jeongjeon, at Jeongmyo Shrine. The main hall of Jongmyo Shrine is 110 meters long and is dedicated to the spirits of Korea's royal ancestors. To create the installation the artist mixed burnt ashes, soil and water as an ink medium into which are inscribed abstracted human figures. Hence the “King's Road” elicits from the earth the souls of those a ruler walks over as well as representing a quest that leads to a spiritual journey.

Yu Yeon Kim, Guest Curator 

Yu Yeon Kim is an independent curator of many distinguished international exhibitions of art.   Kim has been a curator and commissioner of the Liverpool Biennial (2004), Poland Mediation Biennale 2008, 3rd Gwangju Biennale 2000, 2nd Johannesburg Biennale 1997, and the 1st Mexico Painting Biennale 1998.   Other international exhibitions have included, New Conjunctions (UN Headquarters, NYC 2016); Fluid Form II (Arab contemporary art, Busan Museum of Art 2014); Idyllic Synthesis (Seoul Museum of Art, 2013);  Hanji Metamorphoses (Rubin Museum of Art, UN Korean Embassy and other New York City venues, 2012); Tong (Sungbo Museum and Haeinsa Temples, South Korea, 2011); Magnetic Power (South East Asian contemporary art, Coreana Museum of Art, Seoul 2009- 2010); Corporeal/Technoreal (media art, Printing Factory, Poznan, Poland 2008); Los Puntos del Compas (Fundacion Ludwig de Cuba, Havana, Cuba and Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros Museum, Mexico City, 2008); Counterpoint (Bund 18, Shanghai, China and  Coreana Museum of Art in Seoul 2007);  Pyongyang Report (Paju Book City, Heyri Art Village DMZ South Korea 2006); DMZ-2005 (Paju Book City, Heyri Art Village DMZ South Korea 2005); Translated Acts (Performance and Body Art from East Asia – Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2001, Queens Museum of Art, New York, 2001-2002, Museo de Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, 2002-2003); Fragmented Histories (Cinco Continentes y Una Ciudad  exposition, Mexico City Museum, Mexico 1998); In The Eye of the Tiger (Exit Art/The Third World, New York City, Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea, 1997 – 1998); Omnizone (Perspectives in Mapping Digital Culture, online project featured on the and  Guggenheim Museum websites, 1996).

Yu Yeon Kim has lectured and been a guest speaker at many international symposiums including the Sydney Bienalle (2004); Columbia University (2003); Lyon Biennale Muse d'art contemporain de Lyon, France (2003); inSITE Biennale, Salk Institute, San Diego University (2003); Tate Modern, London, UK (2003); Asia Society, New York (2003); SITAC, Mexico City (2002); Cornell University (2002); Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute.  New York University (2002); School of The Art Institute of Chicago (2001); Museum of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico (2000); Ehwa University, Seoul, South Korea (2000); Hanover University, Germany (2000);  Shanghai Biennale 2000, Shanghai Museum, China (2000); Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2000).

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Miro Yoon