NAM KWAN
Lot 445 has been withdrawn from the sale

Lot 445 has been withdrawn from the sale

Details
Lot 445 has been withdrawn from the sale
Provenance
Private Collection, Asia
Sale room notice
Lot 445 has been withdrawn from the sale

Brought to you by

Eric Chang
Eric Chang

Lot Essay

Appearing for the first time in Christie's Hong Kong sale, Nam Kwan is one of the best recognized painters in Korean Modern Art history along with his contemporary artist, Kim Whan-Ki. Like many other modern Korean artists, Nam Kwan first encountered Western abstract art indirectly in Japan. Under Japanese academicism, Nam intensively probed a wide range of European oil paintings from Impressionism to Cubism and Fauvism, seeking his own colours and compositional forms. Though he had always craved originality in his art, it was, however, the Korean War that desperately urged him to develop his own style suitable for expressing the tragic and horrendous experience of the war.

In 1954, Nam decided to move to Paris in order to gain direct exposure to Western art, develop his own visual language by learning from Western masters who had successfully expressed their war experiences and also practice his art in a new environment. At that time, Paris was filled with a flow of Informel movement and Nam vigorously absorbed tachisme technique of dripping paints only because he found it most appropriate to create texture he wanted to express. Though Nam consciously resisted joining any specific movement, there were two major figures he was spiritually inspired by. The uncompromising purity of Paul Klee, especially his painting, Death and Fire, where human figures are embodied with simple signs had an enormous impact on Nam's artistic direction. Jean Fautrier's paintings such as Hostages series, filled with heavy Martière of amorphous figures, which successfully expressed the extreme fear of war, influenced Nam by assuring the capability of abstract art as means of articulating the tragic war experience.
Through extensive experiments with various materials and techniques, by the early 1960s, Nam began to develop his signature style and motif: unique shapes evoking letters, historical remains, stones, crown from the Silla Dynasty, and Korean traditional mask. As he recalls, "I am employing old themes from my motherland-ancient remains, masks, ancient plant pattern." Unlike renowned Western calligraphy abstract paintings by Hans Hartung, Mark Tobey, and Franz Klein, who pursued free brushstrokes of spontaneous energy and action, Nam preferred to carefully devise letter shapes and make them constructive and figurative. Nam's signature ideogram style continued to evolve into the next stage; more concrete structure by occupying repeated letters in the canvas during the 1970s and soft shapes of ideograms as if they are floating in the universe in the 1980s. Two paintings featured here (Lot 444, 445) are representative examples that demonstrate his mature technique and evolved styles employing the ideograms during the 1980s. Blue colour in both paintings evokes Korean traditional royal garments dyed by extraction from plants and flowers. In the blue background, there are constructive letter structures with round spheres indicating the sun and moon are drifting in the vast cosmos. His signature ideograms combined with historical ruins, Chinese and Korean characters, and human faces signify the rich history of humanity as Nam tries to express his simultaneous feelings of hope and futility. Bernard Dorival is one among many French critics who praised Nam's works. He wrote in 1973, "Nam's work is a great example of sophisticated and exquisite sensibility of East Asia." The two paintings featured here will provide an opportunity for the audience to examine the philosophical depth and technical dexterity of Nam's meditative paintings.
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