by Vatsala SethiSep 08, 2022
The art tradition of Dansaekhwa, which translates into ‘monochrome painting’, originated in South Korea in the 1970s as a result of the younger generation of Korean artists seeking to escape from the chaotic socio-political situation post the end of the Korean war and the subsequent separation of North and South Korea. The result was Dansaekhwa, a unique abstract form of art inspired by western minimalism, in particular Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism. Colours and paper, especially Korean Hanji paper made from the inner bark of mulberry trees, were key aspects of this new form of abstraction, which was rooted in nature and devoid of figuration.
One of the key founding figures of this style was Park Seo-Bo, who is renowned for his Écriture series and large minimalist paintings. He incorporated Hanjipaper into his works - dampening it and applying it to his canvases in layers to create a sculptural surface. A recipient of the Asia Arts Game Changer Award and numerous other accolades, Seo-Bo’s practice synergised the traditional Korean ethos with modern abstraction, resulting in his own unique spiritual approach to ideas of time, space and material.
Korean artist Minjung Kim is another artist whose visual language is rooted in the Dansaekhwa style.She studied at the Hongik University in Seoul at the same time that Park Seo-Bo was the Dean. Her abstract works created using layers of Hanjipaper burnt with a candle flame or incense sticks before being assembled into collages, celebrate nature at its core, fire being one of its essential elements. The rhythmical abstract surfaces of her works, much like Seo-Bo’s, imbued her art with a visually meditative feel.
Consequently, to initiate a dialogue between the traditions of Asian culture and Western art, the Langen Foundation presents the first solo exhibitions in Germany of the two leading figures of contemporary Korean art. In the tradition of the Langen family’s extraordinary collection of Asian art, a bridge is offered, not only between the East and the West but also connecting tradition and modernity in a salient way.
Talking about the exhibition, Christiane Maria Schneider, the curator at Langen Foundation, said, “The current exhibitions of Park Seo-Bo and Minjung Kim at the Langen Foundation bring together two Korean artists from different generations, who both create a dialogue between western art and elements of traditional Asian art. With their specific emphasis on time, repetition and materiality, both Park Seo-Bo’s paintings on the basis of writing as well as Minjung Kim’s paper collages are both meditative and physical while referring to western serial and informal art. Their exhibitions show once again that there is more to modern art than just the western view but that strong independent positions have developed in other parts of the world as well that have been overseen for such a long time."
The exhibition, which is taking place at the museum designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, includes 70 works that give a broad overview of both the artists’ practice. It is on display till March 29, 2020, and is supported by White Cube, London.