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    Sale 2703

    Asian Contemporary Art and Chinese 20th Century Art (Evening Sale)

    24 May 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 507


    Price Realised  


    (b. 1954)
    Pink Stare of Dali
    signed in Korean; titled 'Pink Stare of Dali' in English; dated '2005' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    294 x 194 cm. (115 7/8 x 76 1/4 in.)
    Painted in 2005

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    The ironic principle of hyperrealism is that it commences on a depiction that is at its utmost realism, incongruously making a beguiling promise of an illusion of its existence. Acutely conscious of its paradoxical tendency, Kang Hyung Koo knowingly investigates and rehearses to form a strikingly persuasive illustration of portraitures of significant figures of art history.

    Exploiting the illusory promises that hyperrealistic paintings make, Kang reincarnates Salvador Dali and Vincent Van Gogh within the grand scale of his canvas, most definitely making their presence known, hence bestowing a sense of existence life again to these characters. Whether it be the grippingly well painted portrayal, astute grasp of the power of color or even perhaps his understanding and suave toying with the elements of hyperrealism; nevertheless all these qualities only strengthens Kang's maturity and success as an artist as the viewer finds themselves locked in a mystical spell of his theatrical paintings. The meticulous record of withered skin stem a sense of swaying magnetism of awe and repel, deliberately leaving the eyes untouched with magnified detailing to allow the deep pools of the protagonist's eyes to become the core expressionism in extracting their profoundly introverted soul. As Kang consumes elements of hyperrealism yet simultaneously avoids to fully epitomizing it to declare his paintings to be read beneath the surface, inquiring the audience to spend time to unravel the creases of the skin and its traces, a remnant of Aristotle's theory on the principle of art is echoed 'The aim of Art is to present not the outward appearance of things but their inner significance; for this, not the external manner and detail, constitutes true reality.'

    With this notion in mind, second to his painstaking draftsmanship is his emblematic use of color and the eloquent control of its monotone palette. Though his basic pictorial description may be engagingly pragmatic, Kang consciously chooses solitude colors that are very far from real but closer to surreal. Adeptly appropriate to his characters, Dali and his eccentric yet iconic facial expression is flaunted in Pink Stare of Dali (Lot 507), faintly washed in muted fuchsia against blank whiteness. The pallid, perhaps empty background intensifies the aggravating tonal color of pink that settles uncomfortably in the viewers eyes. In doing so, Kang narrates the effect of Dali's personality in the past as half of his surrounding were in awe of his eccentrics whereas the other half felt a strong irritation to his mannerism. His skin is profusely creased as his long life of experiences is woven into the reverberating texture of the echoing space of his pinkly flushed face. Finely attended layers of his white hair are brittle with age, skin supple yet rigid, his grey eyes projecting worldly experiences and tiredness. Nevertheless the alert pupils of his eyes attest his intellectual depth as a vastly imaginative and versatile individual.

    Van Gogh (Lot 508) is drowned in blue solitude as his soul lives in the glint of his own eyes. Their hypnotic gazes are curiously captivating as we find ourselves wanting to empathize and grasp their personal story that they endeavor to tell through their expressionless face, supported by the traces nature has engraved within them. In comparison to Dali's jagged skin, though equally magnified with skin's creases it is smoother and visibly younger than Dali. Suggestive of the length of their years lived; Van Gogh's wrinkles are firmer but equally carved with expression traces between his eyes that suggest the folds of human desolation or a veiled resentment on his life. Interlacing his trajectory within his disgruntled face, the struggles of his life appear in silence with tightly pursed lips shadowed by the solemn blue, conceivably more like a tranquil phantom; his gleaming eye yearn for redemption together with his yield for self-destructive forces.

    Kang's portraits to extract mutual dialogues with the viewer and also himself through his subject's profound gaze. The eye invites the audience to its soul, emitting Kang's yearning for these characters to come to life as real people. Striving to portray a mutual communication through the gaze, Kang somewhat overturns his oeuvres as a piece of aesthetic appreciation to an actual person. Portraitures have long been a favored subject that has been bordered with compositional tedium of a focus that predominantly described the face and expression. Kang retains this customary tendency but warps it into his own exploratory realm by magnifying the facial features to reveal the diversity of emotions through shocking details of facial frauds. Despite his painterly embellishment of the face, the heart of his artistic endeavor remains the same. Kang shares the same inspiration with Gu Kaizhi in his Chinese theory of portraits 'the key to the portrait is not its physical beauty or ugliness, but resides within the eyes.' 'By the act of painting the eyes, the artist bestows spiritual existence, making the figures more lifelike and real.'


    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
    Private Collection, Europe