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    Sale 2618

    Asian Contemporary Art (Evening Sale)

    30 November 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 530


    Price Realised  


    (Born in 1954)
    signed and dated 'Kang Hyung Koo; 2005.6' in Korean (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    259 x 194 cm. (102 x 76 1/4 in.)
    Painted in 2006

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    The majestic scale of Kang Hyung Koo's portraits immediately engulfs the audience with meticulous detailing of the seemingly withered skin emanating a resilient charm of awe and repel. The deep pools of Kang's protagonist's eye become the core expressionism in extracting their profoundly introverted soul. Aptly consuming the elements of Hyperrealism but simultaneously avoiding to fully epitomizing it, Kang astutely declares his paintings to be read beneath the surface, inquiring the audience to spend time to unravel the creases of the skin and its traces.

    Kang's sensitivity in critically manipulating the very formulae of hyperrealism is clearly attended in his paintings; one that begins with the emphasis of realism but makes intriguingly illusory promises of its existence. Kang has increased its persuasive illustration into a questionable one by resolutely exaggerating the features, willfully imposing a magnified view of the facial features to extend beyond the usual vision and to create lines and facial frauds that reflect the inner soul of the characters. He ploys his works as a mere Hyperrealistic painting by making illusory promises of its existence by painting portraits of those ambiguous in existence, but cleverly finishes it by working conversely to the effect of Hyperrealism in creating portraits that end with the emphasis of realism. Owing to his dedicated depiction, Kang bestow life to their non-existence, able to provide a sheer realism of these protagonist's characteristics.

    Rejecting the superficiality of illusion, Kang explores in much more greater precision within the monotone palette, objecting to simply portray the surface of realism, and instead, by shunning away from color, he solely focus the spectators attention to the facial features that read the full persona of the protagonist. However, one cannot disavow his aesthetic mastery as an artist as the colors he decides is admirably pertinent to the characters he portrays. The ethereal aura suffuses from the canvas, framing the sedate face of Lincoln (Lot 530). The plain white background is glossed, providing a sheer illumination that further shimmer the silver green of Lincoln. Depicted with a fine balance of textural crudity of the medium and painterly smoothness, Lincoln radiates a three-dimensional phantom. Kang shrewdly interlaces Lincoln's trajectory into the reverberating texture against the echoing space of gleaming white vacuity, determined to narrate Lincoln's earnest significance in history. The grain and wrinkle dialogue the various struggles of his life that has been disciplined and cultivated under Kang's execution to form a portrait that grants light to his life and achievement. His eyes, deeply washed in mystic purple, engage in visual conversation with the audience with his delicate gaze of wisdom.

    Like many of Kang's paintings, Boy (Lot 529) centers its expression in the eye of the protagonist. The gravity penetrated in the dark black eyes of the boy articulate a gaze that is profoundly different from Lincoln. The prominence of Lincoln may appeal the viewer with its familiarity, thus allowing a perceptual conversation between the viewer and the painting to be of ease; however, on the contrary the unidentifiable boy with his dark eyes prompts an unfamiliar discomfort. Grippingly relative to Kang's intention, this precise sensation is what Kang aspires to bestow through his illustration. He aspires for the viewer to engage with his paintings through time; with time, his paintings unravel the protagonist inner consciousness. The hypnotic gazes of his characters are curiously captivating as the viewer finds themselves wanting to empathize and grasp their personal story that they endeavor tell through their expressionless face supported by traces that nature has engraved within them through freckles and creases. As much as it triggers an unfamiliar discomfort from the audience, the boy is also guarded with uncertainty of the audience who watches him. His eyes are mature yet deeply wounded, coated with a tinge of shimmer that perchance may be a remnant of a tear. The skin is dry with trace of hardship, laboriously apt to the defensive face that the boy strikes. The structural expression of the face appear skeptical and vigilant, however Kang's deliberate painstaking detailing of his skin's texture may have misleadingly conjured such sentiment as the boy's eyes tells otherwise.

    "The expression does not mean that there is a lack thereof, rather it is a neutral state in which the face can turn to any expression at any moment. In other words, the expressionless face could in fact equal many expressions, and is potentially the start and beginning of all possible expressions. In any case, the expressionless state serves as the neutral expression to which all expressions must return. One might say the expressionless face is the endpoint for all expressions."

    Kang assimilates emotional, social, cultural and political thematic as an addition of the painted visual illusion through the use of facial expression. He thoroughly investigates on facial expressions to forecast people's future actions, and subtly remark on its development as inherently social. The universal language that it imposes distinguishes its communicative potential as an intercultural contact. Clearly aware of this aptitude, Kang eloquently renders neutrality in the facial expression of his protagonists to preserve a narrative inside. To decipher their expressionless face, the viewers are expected to lengthen their attention spans and their capacities in truly comprehending the aesthetic conventions that an expressionless face inhabits.

    Kang covet for his 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 eye to eye, 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."