In January 2022, Gallery BK Seoul Hannam held a large-scale group exhibition, The Hidden Masterpiece Part I., showcasing works by 14 influential masters pioneering the Korean and international art market. The show sent out a considerable impact on the art world last year, and the gallery prepared a sequel in January 2023, The Hidden Masterpiece Part II., featuring a selection of eight established artists and masters. Each of the eight artists in the show boasts a unique aesthetic philosophy founded upon a concrete visual practice, and their works have been admired by both domestic and international collectors. On the other hand, as the eight artists are in high demand, their recent activities have provided a spark that reignited the Korean art market that has struggled recently.
Seahyun Lee expands and dissects his emotions about certain subjects he had experienced and recognized and directly translates his introspective process as large, red landscapes of distinct formal attributes. Projecting moments from his experiences onto canvases through a highly individual style — mostly in red and less frequently in blue or other brilliant hues — Lee offers his viewers a deepmost and profound sense of grandeur. Bongsang Yoo’s dense clusters of headless pins summon unknown sides of nature in their full thicknesses, their realistic background and exquisite, sobering details drawing viewers unawares into depths of introspection. Keuntai Kim is an artist who continues the lineage of the Dansaekhwa monochrome movement. Using stone powder in his works, Kim boosts the materiality of his medium and furthers his investigations into the physical properties of various materials. Created by stacking innumerable layers of paint to the degree that it becomes impossible to grasp a sense of depth from them, his paintings convey the allegory of contemporary human beings in a crowd.
In comparison, Tschoonsu Kim’s practice of using only one color, ultramarine, reminds the viewer of a deep abyss and relays an unspoken echo. Through repetitive acts of stacking lines and planes above each other, Kim expresses his longing and thirst for utopia and endless admiration for nature’s innocence. The variegated array of works filling the exhibition halls move together in muted steps, allowing the viewer to explore the artists’ powerful experiences on a macroscopic level. On a microscopic level, they provide a secondhand experience of the gradual introspections and ideas developed over a long time, composing a decisive harmony between the feelings of the deliverers and the recipients.
Moving in a unique flow, also identified as “stroke,” Jungwoong Lee draws heavy and strong brushstrokes over serene landscapes and planes of calm water. His brushwork realizes the coexistences of figurativism and abstractionism, East and West, and reality and representation, and offers the viewer a new way of appreciating art. In a series of works seeming to send oriental tits on a flight, Haiyun Jung synchronizes the flaps of the birds into a single visual wavelength and presents a spectacle where individual lifeforms gather into one and form a community. Kyoungtack Hong’s meticulous objects of flawless accuracy and a splendid, repetitive array of colors and imagery present his sharp point of view and observation examining modern men’s obsessive desires and demand for popularity in a feast of rhythmic colors. Kukwon Woo’s images, imbued with the innocence of a child and marked by a bright and cheerful color palette, are a testament to the remarkable rapport between him and his works, the narrative of paintings beginning from his own emotions summon a romantic beauty and intense flow of consciousness within the viewer.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the German philosopher who fathered modern aesthetics and set a cornerstone in the philosophy of art, defined the artist as the creator of an emotional ideology and argued that art must accompany the ideology and convey it to the viewer. However, the emotional ideology he referred to is a semiotics of imagination, a type of semiotics that cannot be described through concept or language. Therefore, in Kant’s view, art is general and understandable by nature, not recognized through experience, and not reliant on the viewer’s power of perception, and this suggestion opened a prospect for semiotics in the same vein. A work of art is a means of conveyance, so when the work is fully understood by the viewer and when the two synthesize and form a definition, it could be the fastest way of appreciating the transcendental concepts presented by the artist.
The eight artists each convey a message in their works, but what influence do they specifically hold for us? The statements each artist beseeches in their works are subjective, but their rationale is objective and thus enables them to draw emotional interactions from viewers. And, as Kant proclaimed, the emotional ideologies and profound enlightenment underlying in the artists’ works make them much more than beautiful images. The aesthetic experiences provided here will unite the works and viewers into a state of harmony.
Min Choi, Managing Director, Gallery BK