Kwon Young-Woo 9 December 2021–30 January 2022 Kukje Gallery 54 Samcheong-ro Jongno-gu Seoul, 03053 South Korea
Kukje Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of Kwon Young-Woo, a leading artist of the Dansaekhwa movement, on view from 9 December 2021 through 30 January 2022, at the gallery’s K2 space. Marking the artist’s third presentation at the gallery, following solo shows in 2015 and 2017, the exhibition will not only showcase works from the Paris period (1978–1989) defined by Kwon’s iconic work with white hanji (Korean paper), but will also feature for the first time, coloured hanji works made upon his return to Korea in 1989. Newer works from the 2000s that incorporate geometric shapes by overlapping hanji on wooden panels will also be shown.
The comprehensive span of these distinctive bodies of work allows the exhibition to provide an authoritative overview of Kwon Young-Woo’s practice and the development of his formative language that uses traditional Asian materials in a modern way. It provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the artist’s seminal practice, commitment to traditional aesthetic philosophies, as well as lifelong experimentation and innovation.
As a member of the first generation of artists who came to the fore after Korea’s independence, Kwon Young-Woo was involved in the vital artistic debates that characterized the newly liberated country, where artists argued for and against breaking away from what had been the official Japanese style, and the development of a new ‘national’ art.
At the time, Korean art was perceived as having been dominated by Japanese painting, which led towards a concentrated effort to reject this connection and pioneer new methods—a desire that, following the Western model, was founded on the individuality of each artist. Confronted with the shift to post-war abstraction, Kwon—a student of oriental painting—reacted to the search for a new idiom through a unique approach based on modernizing traditional methods. From the outset, he believed it was misguided to distinguish between Western and Eastern painting, saying, ‘I think it is more meaningful to continue anew than to preserve and inherit tradition.
In response, he distanced himself from traditional Eastern mediums of the 1960s, such as Chinese ink and the brush, focusing on techniques associated with the selected medium of hanji. Kwon’s works were rooted in Asian tradition, but in line with Western forms—namely post-war abstraction, recalling the ‘papier collé (paper collage)’ by Georges Braque and ‘concetto spaziale (spatial concept)’ of Lucio Fontana. For Kwon, the question of how to compose superseded what to draw, prompting a deep investigation into both the method and meditation on the perception of the picture plane.
This formal and conceptual rigor, coupled with the use of Eastern mediums, was the basis of his groundbreaking work which was way ahead of its time.