The Korea Herald


Unstable emotions in dim landscapes

By 이우영

Published : Sept. 15, 2015 - 17:38

    • Link copied

Award-winning artist Kong Sung-hun is presenting his new series in a solo exhibition at Arario Gallery in Seoul.

Named artist of the year in 2013 by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, Kong’s new painting series is in line with his previous works that won him the prestigious art prize.

The “Dusky Landscape” consists of 16 large works that are as tall as 1.8 meters. The images in the series are familiar scenes: a white trail of an airplane in the sky, bare winter trees, stormy seas and rugged cliffs on the sea and cloudy gray skies. 
"Winter Tree" by Kong Sung-hun (Arario Gallery)

His paintings are neither decorative nor colorful. They exude depressed ambience in a dark shade. The images are ordinary landscapes that Kong selected to highlight the unstable psychological state of people in modern society.

Kong had straddled the line between painting and media art in his art career in the 1990s. His diverse range of works voiced against mass production and consumption of art increasingly treated as mere shopping items.

Since 2000, he has made a transition to painting, a move that seemed to counter the major art trend toward cutting-edge media art and technology. He went to the basics of painting: landscape images.

His commitment to the traditional practice of painting and bringing various emotions won him the artist of the year prize in 2013.

His paintings are mostly dim with a few strings of light coming in. The dreary images are captured during the “magic hour” -- shortly before and after the sunrise and sunset when the air and its color changes.

“The dusky scenes best represent the borderline between realistic landscapes and surreal, unrealistic landscapes,” said Kong.

“By painting the dusky scenes, I tried to divert from reality and stimulate the psychological state of viewers.”

The largest paintings on display at the gallery are three separate pieces that depict willow trees in winter the artist saw at the Lake Park in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province. The long, thin willow branches are so highly detailed that the artist said they took the longest to finish. 
“Willow Tree 1, 2, 3” by Kong Sung-hun (Arario Gallery) “Willow Tree 1, 2, 3” by Kong Sung-hun (Arario Gallery)

He twists the reality by juxtaposing two contrasting symbols -- positive and negative scenes. In “Jump,” two youngsters jump high with hope against the setting sun.

“I don’t try to show directly the reality that young people face today. Viewers can have different interpretations on whether they will feel positive or negative toward the image,” he said. 
"Jump" by Kong Sung-hun (Arario Gallery)

“Dusky Landscape” continues through Nov. 8 at Arario Gallery in Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul. For more information, call (02) 541-5701.

By Lee Woo-young (