Born in 1929 and still working today, Kim Tschang Yeul has become one of the most important living Korean artists. With one foot firmly rooted in modernism, by training as well as in practice, Kim has definitively braved his other into the relevance and currency of the contemporary. Strictly Korean by birth, by upbringing and by cultural indoctrination, the artist has spent the better part of his mature years in France, with a brief stint in New York as a student. Exposed to and fascinated by the then dominant art movements—Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Hyperrealism are a few—Kim needed to locate his own voice beyond his membership to the Korean Informel generation. Theirs was an aesthetic that championed the monochromatic and the minimalist. Away from home and thus detached from national turmoil in the aftermath of the wars that had raged on at home and abroad, Kim Tschang Yeul could finally channel his energies into the search for his personal brand of art.
Perhaps no words can better encapsulate Kim Tschang Yeul's art than "water drops." While the extremely adept trompe l'oeil effect of his water drop is often the subject of awe and adulation from his adoring devotees, the water drop as an ideological vehicle and a pictorial device are aspects often overlooked. First debuted at a show in Paris in 1972, "Salon de Mai," Kim's water drop paintings have since garnered unrelenting favour and applause from laymen masses and discerning critics. In an inadvertent expression of a childhood memory where he was playing by a stream, the artist has stumbled upon his signature style, one that would evolve along with his changing personal, artistic and philosophical inclinations. While he is excellent at realistically representing an element as temporary and as erratic as a small dollop of water, Kim also wields the drop as a tool to assert the material existence and the physical nature of the canvas. It is a surface upon which a painting is applied, lain, attached. It was an object that has been transformed into "art." The water drops, though often arranged to generate spaces of contemplation, alternate symmetries or even optical hoaxes, are sometimes but a conduit to so much more that is not represented.
Overtime, the imagery of a Kim Tschang Yeul painting has earned such rampant prevalence that the water drop has become something of a cultural symbol, an icon of the collective Korean identity, a pointer to a national consciousness that spans generations. The introduction of text a decade later, then, strikes as logical and inevitable. Another anecdote of the artist recounts pleasant hours spent with his grandfather, who taught him and practiced with him calligraphy in the mountains of the North. Elaborating further, he has said that while he uses Chinese characters as a loving demonstration of nostalgia, their inclusion accentuates the softness of a water drop. Kim derives from the Thousand Character Classic and selects only the ones with positive meanings, a creative decision that infinitely enhances the Asian quality of his compositions. It is both an intimate personal history as well as a familiar traditional civilization to which he alludes. Treated both as a container of literal meaning as well as a pictograph that possesses its own architectural layout, these Chinese characters add another layer both symbolically and formally.
Rare in its imposing size and rich in its contents, P.A. 84010 (Lot 981) is an exceptionally splendid piece created during the incipient years of Kim Tschang Yeul incorporating text into his matrix of water drops. Particularly favoured by the artist himself, the work had hung in his studio for many years before it had been pried out of his own collection by a Swiss gallerist, from whom the present owner acquired it. Opulent in both crucial motifs, the canvas is covered with characters and water drops. P.A. 84010 pushes every one of the artist's intentional allegories to the maximum. Fading as they approach the center are the Chinese letters, losing chromatic intensity as well as dropping selected radicals. The text eventually becomes illegible and nonsensical, retreating out of focus as it lies silently beneath the cornucopia of water drops. In this picture Kim Tschang Yeul poses the most challenging scenario of all—the sense of depth and the portrayal of dimension are so thoroughly warped that the canvas as a surface, as a plane, is completely forgotten. Truly a visual enigma and thus endlessly stimulating, P.A. 84010 represents one of the artist's finest efforts ever created to date.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.