The Longest Monsoon in History
Some artists paint objects, while others paint ambience. Of course, every painter has a unique ambience, which we call “style.” But for those in the latter group, style itself is the subject matter. For artists like Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt, the coincidence of style and subject matter orients painting in an abstract and minimalist direction, in which painting is reduced to its ambience.
Changyoung Kim addresses numerous incidents, contradictions, pains, and absurdities that he has experienced in Korean society. In his lifetime, Korea has been marked by trauma and tragedy related to war, poverty, violence, dictatorship, industrialization, and democratization, continuing to this day. In this same period, art has been forced into chaos and anomie, with no end in sight. But Kim’s paintings seem very distant from these harsh realities.
The exhibition title—The Longest Monsoon in History—has an obvious metaphorical connotation, but also invokes the synesthesia of collective experience. The eponymous painting resembles a sunset, with subtle pink and purple hues resonating over a blue stream. The overlapping colors create an ambiguous zone that naturally draws the eye to follow its movement.
Changyoung Kim’s canvasses are dominated by smears of colors formed by countless fine, delicate layers of paint. Occupying a large proportion of the plane, the color fields of these smears become independent subjects or objects, at different times recalling animals, monsters, massive peaks, or islands floating on the sea. These objects lie in the shadows or on the ambiguous borders of other color fields with similar tones. Appearing dimly, as if shrouded in the fog, these forms became his Illusion series. He chose this name because the forms resemble fear or hope that seems to be approaching, or floating in the distance, but which does not actually exist. Other works, such as the Cloudy Blue series or Secret Serenity, are named after weather or secrets, things that cannot be called or held.
Changyoung Kim paints on large canvasses in order to convey a sense of immersion. When viewed up-close, the surfaces of his works are highly elaborate, and brushed to perfection. The translucent layers of pink or blue-gray are so faint that they almost seem to disappear as you approach, such that the pictorial presence of the canvas only returns when you take a few steps back. What you are looking at might be a canvas, but it is also a blurry atmospheric flow, or an empty plane waiting to immerse you. Whatever it is, the painting unfolds before you, slowing your breathing as you withdraw from yourself and enter serenity.
The imagery created by artist Changyoung Kim is a monochrome series of soft colors. Using repeated brushstrokes, the artist expresses clear and simple images from his mind as huge, vague color fields. Dissolving all specific references or events in the fog of monochrome, he ironically confronts reality. Kim’s art is a process of enduring daily life in a world where peace, war, conflict, reconciliation, violence, and conversation coexist in a mad jumble. Through the clear, flat colors of his monochrome, the relationship between reality and art, and the history of countless lives, ideas, and imaginations are melted into metaphor.
From review by Noam Kim (director of Artspace Hue)