Kukje Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of Kwon Young-Woo, a leading Dansaekhwa master widely celebrated for his work with paper. On view at K1 and K2, the exhibition showcases over thirty of the artist’s masterpieces dating from the 1970s to the 1990s, and provides an invaluable opportunity to experience how Kwon developed a new visual language by utilizing traditional Asian painting materials and combining them with a modern practice.
Early in his career, Kwon explored figurative abstraction using Chinese ink, a common Korean painting material, before deciding in 1962 to use Hanji (Korean paper) as the primary medium for his artistic production. By renouncing the brush and the traditional emphasis on painting a picture, and opting to use his fingers to cut, tear, puncture and glue the paper together, Kwon put repetitive action and the paper’s materiality and tactility at the forefront of his practice. His focus on the delicate Hanji’s layered texture led to three-dimensional shapes and rhythmic compositions that cover the entire surface, and his innovative techniques were praised for reinvigorating Korean painting materials and creating a new vocabulary that expanded the definition of traditional Korean painting.
The major works showcased in this exhibition, conceived in the 1980s, contain the broadest range of colors used by the artist. Painted with both Western (gouache) and Eastern (ink) mediums, these works showcase the artistry with which Kwon allowed color to permeate into the paper’s torn edges. These paintings depend on the unpredictable encounter between the paper and the paint, thereby showcasing the vital role of the material. Kwon Young-Woo once noted of his practice, “my work begins from creating canvas with Hanji. After gluing together one, two, or multiple layers of paper, I rip, puncture and color them. I paint both on the surface and back of the canvas to have the paint bleed into the front. Since the number of Hanji layers and the glue applied are kept consistent, the only variation comes from tearing and puncturing of the surface, and the response to the paint application and how much it is applied. The result is from my yearning to seek new or accidental occurrences.”
Kwon Young-Woo was born in 1926 in Riwon County, South Hamgyong Province, in North Korea. He entered Seoul National University in 1946 as the first class in the College of Fine Arts and studied Oriental painting. He received his MFA from the same school in 1957. He taught at School of Art, Chung-Ang University, from 1964 to 1978. He then moved to Paris and spent about ten years until 1989 to fully devote his life to studio practice. He has had solo exhibitions in major venues including Jacques Massol Gallery, Paris (1976); Ho-Am Art Museum, Yongin (1990); National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (1998); and Seoul Museum of Art (2007). His work has also been featured in international biennials and group exhibitions, such as Tokyo Biennale (1965); São Paulo Art Biennial (1973); Five Whites from Korea at Tokyo Gallery (1975); and Dansaekhwa, an official collateral event of the 56th Venice Biennale (2015). He received numerous awards including Korean Minister of Culture’s Artist Award (1958 and 1959); National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art’s Artist of the Year Award (1998); Silver Crown Medal, Order of Cultural Merit from the government (2001); Heo Baek-ryeon Art Prize from Gwangju Culture & Art Center (2003). His works are also included in the collections of major art institutions, such as National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea; Seoul Museum of Art; Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; and British Museum, London. Kwon Young-Woo died on November 14, 2013.