The investigation on absence as well as the one on the relationship between what is permanent and what is not has always been interesting for art – as art itself can be seen, in part, as a continuous effort of blending impermanence into a medium.
At Choi&Lager Gallery in Seoul, Joong Baek Kim and Soon-Hak Kwon present their own personal relationship with absence through three different mediums: painting, sculpture and photography. The dialogue between the two artists spans through the three floors of the gallery, guiding the visitors into a visual journey which becomes almost poetic for the themes it touches.
What color could we adopt to elaborate on absence? The two artists suggest an ensemble of light tones, always tending to a certain whiteness. Understandable: there is a particular atmosphere which white creates, both in nature and in art, which leads to a feeling of a calm nothingness: a white canvas, a foggy morning, a snowy landscape, an over-saturated photograph. White also represents light, and light is impermanent per se.
In white, then, we see absence: and by walking through whiteness we embark in a quest to discover two different elaborations on its truths.
Joong Baek Kim journey through fundamental truth exists within the concept of freeing the artwork from the artist’ agency. An endless process which tries to find balance between adding and taking away, between drawing and covering up.
This balance seems to always become whiter and whiter, but never completely deprived of color: deepness exists through the use of gesso over canvas sheets previously prepared with a coffee dye. Shapes, drawings and -sometimes – words, become the leading protagonists to attract our gaze. Like particles, they move in the free space of the canvas, they take their place, they stand as a confirmation that not everything is ephemeral, levitating.
Soon-Hak Kwon looks at what nature can tell us about absence. A series in particular, “Before a day overwhelms a tree”, well captures these efforts: three large-scale photographs show us lonely trees surrounded by an almost bare landscape. A reflection on the lands of Incheon – familiar to the artist – always affected by the endless constructions due to South Korea’s continuous development.
Whiteness is brought up by the use of light as well as by the morning breeze which covers our subjects. It is a tale of loneliness as well as freedom, fixity, but perhaps an ephemeral one: by looking at the photographs we may advert contrasting emotions, yet one feeling which shines through is an idea of timelessness.
Absence is fixed, blended, captured. And then is freed again through another ensemble of work, which we find at the ground floor: as an extension of the “History of” series, the artworks represent the empty walls of the artists’ studio.
And there is perhaps a certain pleasure in that act of representing nothingness, of seeking it: freedom as emancipation for Soon-Kak Kwon; freedom in representing the ultimate good in artistic creation for Joong Baek Kim .
The exhibition title is then well chosen: “Paths are Made by Walking”, a Kafkan reference, reflects on the embodiment of a process which both artists are undertaking. It is almost as if the visitors were assisting at a work in progress, a non finito (to quote Michelangelo), witnessing a point of an endless path of seeking our own truths through art.
Choi & Lager’s first exhibition of 2022 is a brilliant show which adds to the vibrant offer of Seoul, a city on a path herself to become a leading art capital.
Featured picture: Exhibition View_2F, JOONG BAEK KIM AND SOON-HAK KWON – PATHS ARE MADE BY WALKING, Courtesy of the Artists & Choi&Lager Gallery