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Largest-ever showing of water drop paintings

Clear, gem-like water drops are dotted on the canvas, appearing so fragile as though they might drip down or seep through the painting and ruin it at any moment.

Taking few steps closer to the painting, you realize that the trembling drops are part of the paintings. You know it is obvious, but, being so enchanted, can not help but doubt it.

The almost-trompe-l’oeil paintings are creations of Kim Tschang-yeul, a veteran Korean artist better known as the ‘water drop painter.’

The 81-year-old artist received favorable reviews after showing his first water drop paintings in 1972 at “Salon de Mai,” a renowned art exhibition in Paris at the time, and has kept it his signature style ever since.

His works are included in collections of many prestigious art museums such as the Pompidou Center in France, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art in Japan and National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon and are steady sellers in the market as well. 
Kim Tschang-yeul paints one of his ‘Recurrence’ series pieces. (Gallery Hyundai)
Kim Tschang-yeul paints one of his ‘Recurrence’ series pieces. (Gallery Hyundai)

Some of the newest of Kim’s well-recognized paintings can be found at his solo exhibition currently running at Gallery Hyundai Gangnam Space in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul.

The exhibition is one of his biggest and showcases about 50 of his recent works.

“Recurrence,” the exhibition’s title, is also the title of his series that began in the 1990s, around his 60th birthday.

“Becoming 60 also means that you are overcoming one of the crises of your life, and become reborn. I titled it ‘Recurrence,’ implying that I am going back to the starting point,” the artist said at the time.

For his early works, Kim painted water drops on French newspaper backdrops as he had been based in France since 1969. He then tried various other backdrops for the paintings ― such as sand and wooden boards ― until he settled down with “Cheonjamun,” or the Thousand-Character Text, for the ‘Recurrence’ series.

Among the thousand Chinese characters, he only uses ones that have positive meanings.

“Painting water drops is to melt all the anger, anxiety and fear into them and return them to ‘nothingness’ and ‘emptiness,’” he said. The use of the Chinese character-backdrop received accolades for maximizing the oriental spirit of Kim’s works.

His recent works often display bright yellow and soft brown colors.

“It is because now are the twilight years and the golden time of my life,” he told the press on the opening day of the exhibition.

The exhibition runs through Nov. 7 at Gallery Hyundai Gangnam Space in Sinsa-dong, central Seoul. For more information, call (02)519-0800 or visit

By Park Min-young  (
Korea Herald daum