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    Sale 2602

    Asian Contemporary Art (Evening Sale)

    24 May 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 169


    Price Realised  


    (Born in 1968)
    Library II
    signed, titled and dated 'Kyoung tack Hong; Library II; 1995-2001' in Korean, Chinese & English (on reverse)
    oil on canvas
    227 x 181 cm. (89 1/4 x 71 1/4 in.)
    Painted in 1995-2001

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    The surfeit of flamboyant colors and emblematic objects are compressed in psychical fixation, leaving no traces of emptiness of the canvas. Underneath the dizzying fabrication lies the eccentric personal trajectory of Hong Kyoung Tack's contemplation on religion and pop culture. His paintings in overall are politically charged, applying a rather bleak nuance to the matte rainbow palette of seemingly whimsical environment.

    As a child, the arbitrary placement of a holy church within the mixture of bars, clothing stores and restaurants brought visual bewilderment addition to visual anesthetization by the intense projection of pop culture, cinema, pop songs and MTV, where these synthetic appeal became axiomatic to young Hong's vision. The numbing frustration has been transferred into an extreme infatuation and fixation with his recurrent impulses in stacking the books in peculiarly tight and precise construction in Library II (Lot 169). With spate of books in a contrived and limited space of the canvas, he inserts poetic monologues, venting his panic in absorbing the brilliant luminosity of neon colors seen in everyday situations such as banners, signs, television etc. The hypnotic arrangement of the books and the symbolic entities placed in the centre almost exude a trace of possessed scent of the organizer of the assortment, wherein, this inescapable assembly of the composition triggers a claustrophobic anxiety. To augment this torment further, Hong knowingly applies vividly nauseating primary color palette with awareness of its ability to command immediate attention.

    His aesthetic sphere is encrusted with cognitive dissonance, supported by his technical proficiency in inserting ironic colors to his chosen subjects, thus recontextualizing them into a new form, especially that of kitsch appeal. The artist's shrewd dexterity in painting enables him to provide a synthetic texture to the subjects, a surface analogous to the faultlessly smooth plastic. A tremendously versatile material, plastic adapts easily and readily to change, whether it be in shape or color; the additional morphing of plastic conceals its basis essence by flexibly exaggerating itself. The glimpse of pretentiousness that kitsch objects generate are formed by the utilization of primary colors that act as pure colors of the paint tube, hence enhancing the artificiality of the objects.

    These synthetic elements are what draw Hong in depicting kitsch like execution of the objects of his devoted attachment. The objects, moreover the 'images' are compulsive collectives of the artist, explaining his instinctive reaction in arranging a composition that resembles a sanctified significance of a shrine. For Hong, painting is a performance of constructing a personal shrine and appreciating the painting is an act of being invited to a shrine. His collected items are recurrently conveyed subjects of his paintings; mass of books with pigeons and religious icons. His dogged choice in persistently exploring the similar theme only mimics his feverish fetishism, only to amplify the ritualistic stacking and the aura of the shrine. Playfully attributing inherent value to kitsch objects that is understood as crass, Hong bestows new meanings to them, placing them in hierarchical distinction that overall formulate an obvious relevance to Christianity.

    The Crucifixion of Jesus is placed at the very peak with icons of less significance positioned at the bottom in a form of a pyramid and in accordance to their biblical weight. The artist does not simply utilize religious icons to create a reliquary but also positions capricious objects of cakes and miniature toys to reinforce its kitsch characteristic. Within this seemingly oblivious execution rests the concealed profundity of Hong in his intelligent awareness of the analogy between kitsch and Christianity. Theorist, Hermann Broch, stated that kitsch sought to achieve 'beauty' rather than 'truth' by scrounging on creative art with its system of imitation. He quoted kitsch as the 'evil within the value system of art', weighing the difference of these two as the absolute dichotomy between good and evil, wherein is most effectively paraphrased through his compelling assertion, 'the Anti-Christ looks like Christ, acts and speaks like Christ, but is all the same Lucifer.' Reverting back to the Bible, Genisis 3:4,5 'And the serpent said to the woman, Ye will not certainly die; but God knows that in the day ye eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and ye will be as God, knowing good and evil' Hong incorporates the serpent (Satan) clutching on to one of the many Adams holding an apple. As the serpent tried to steal the knowledge of good and evil through woman, it took on a woman's facade in imitation just as 'the Anti-Christ looks like Christ, acts and speaks like Christ, but is all the same Lucifer'.

    The core birth of his painting is exemplified in his erudite assembly of heavily symbolic objects. Hong's oeuvres testify to act as redemption for the world where the good and evil are in mixture of each other, also reflecting back to his memory of the arbitrary placement of the church within the bars, clothing store and restaurants. The images have internal logic in its pecking order with the universally recognized vocabulary. The meaningless toy stands insignificantly indiscernible in scale, veiled away by the bright colors of the books. They stand as if in front of religious court, hands insinuating for forgiveness. The furthest to Jesus, presumably a female toy stands appointed as the sin maker. On the higher level stands six Adams circulating an apple-cake; which the sweet pastry reinvention of the Tree of Life from Garden of Eden (fig.1) creates an obstacle in abstinence with sugary temptations. The rose sits beneath the Venus, versatile in its symbolism, pertinent as an ancient symbol of Venus and also of Marian association. Virtually imitating the interior of a Cathedral where the Christ typically appears as a judge in its arrangement surrounded by roses; Hong eloquently places Christ in the upper center of the rose and the Venus to represent the world of salvation offered. Hong's spiritual faith seeps through his attentive biblical references he critically merges in his composition. The Marian symbolism is best represented by Dante in his description of paradise, Paradiso, 23, 71-75, 'Why are you so enamored of my face that you do not turn your gaze to the beautiful garden which blossoms under the radiance of Christ? There is a rose, in which the divine word became flesh; here are the lilies whose perfume guides you in the right ways.' The simplicity, innocence and love of the Holy Spirit sits shielding the agony and death of Jesus on the Cross. The white doves often appear on the graves, holding an olive branch for the triumphal obtainment of Christ's peace through martyrdom and virtue. Otherwise praised as the Holy Spirit, they are often painted hovering on the shoulders Saints, those who believed to be inspired in their prayers or writings by the Holy Spirit, in which of course is most certainly depicted by Hong; balancing the dove on the shoulder of the faceless person.

    Hardly providing tonal gradation to the shambolic arrangement of the books, he creates an ostensibly flat boldness with the fixed tone of primary colors. Hong represents a convincing form by tuning in different tone of colors on to every rectangle of the book's shape, thus conjuring a clever illusion of depth. The books stacked erratically behind the crucifixion acts upon as a source of holy lighting, shining down upon Jesus with great supernatural composition, differing to the practical piling of its neighboring book. The artist executes an unexpected juxtaposition by pursuing conventional mannerism of painting to illustrate the texture of the shrine in conjunction to the fixed plain palette of the book. The severely balanced structures of objects are weighed against each other in amount; only to reveal Hong's insuppressible compulsive syndrome in ordering a pattern of uniformity. To insistently harmonize the visual equilibrium, Hong divides the centre of his canvas and almost mirrors the two opposing side. The book is open on the bottom left of the canvas, disclosing its white content, capricious in its deed as the rest of the innumerable books remain shut. The white pages offer a visual stability among eccentric colors, reversely aligned with the grey skull.

    Hong's playful vocabulary in stripping ordinary objects of mundane significance, he points out the latent beauty in banal phenomena, creating gripping images of his self-impulsive spectacle that expresses and generates culture concurrently. As he attempts to identify the source of his frustration on canvas with his pathological obsession with reality and pragmatism, he fights to bring social liberation and salvation from our timeless human tendencies that mass media and urban popular culture has bred upon us. Critically staging his unique standpoint by rearranging fragments of biblical references, Hong successfully evokes a larger context through his erudite understanding of color theory and eye mechanism, simultaneously summoning a social and religious criticism on the mass production of culture.


    CAIS Gallery, Korea Hong Kong


    Seoul, Korea, National Museum of Contemporary Art of Korea, Art Book Art, 2003.
    Seoul, Korea, Choheung Gallery, Unspecific Subject, 2005.
    Seoul, Korea, Seoul Arts Center, Saehwa Gyunmunrook (Reinterpreting Heritage: 16 Contemporary Visions), 2006.
    Seoul, Korea, Seoul Museum of Art, The Way of Viewing Objects, 2006.
    Daegue, Korea, Daegu Culture & Arts Center, Korean Young Artists Biennale 2006, 2006.
    Beijing, China, Wonderland: Special Exhibition in the Commemoration of the 15th Anniversary of the Amity between China and Korea, 2007.
    Seoul, Korea, Savina Museum, 2007.