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YUN HYONG-KEUN (1928-2007)
YUN HYONG-KEUN (1928-2007)

Burnt Umber & Ultramarine

YUN HYONG-KEUN (1928-2007)
Burnt Umber & Ultramarine
signed in Korean; inscribed '1992-#4' (on the reverse); inscribed '100F' (on the stretcher)
oil on linen
162.2. x 130.1 cm. (63 7/8 x 51 1/4 in.)
Painted in 1992
Private Collection, Asia

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Lot Essay

Yun Hyong-Keun

Born in 1928, Yun Hyong-Keun is highly recognised as one of the most inspiring artists for the peer group of Tansaekhwa, the Korean monochrome art movement. Like his other Korean contemporary artists, he explored Western styles in the 1960s. But Yun soon returned to the notion and process of Asian ink painting in search of a new abstract form. When the leader of American minimalism, Donald Judd met Yun in the early 1990s during his visit to Korea for his exhibition, he was instantly fascinated by Yun's meditative painting. They noticed a profound depth in the art of the other and became artistic comrades, although their primary interests are almost opposite; Judd focusing more on the actual property of substance while Yun sought to explore the spirit in nature. Judd's affection towards Korean tradition has a long history from his military service in Korea in the late 1940s, and he was especially fascinated with the ultimate beauty of Korean traditional architecture. This allure explains why Judd was captivated by Yun's art.

Yun carefully adopted traditional Eastern mores and modernised it by inventing his own colours by mixing two kinds of oil pigments evoking ink colours; Burnt Umber and Light Ultramarine No 2. This unique mixture of two pigments allows a colour of great range and depth, which Yun preferred to call "the colour of rotted leaves." His act of painting also echoes traditional Asian painters, in that he placed the canvas on the floor while painting. He carefully selected linen for the canvas and left it raw without undercoating to revive fine effects of light and shade with ink dissemination in traditional Asian painting. Yun used diluted thin paint to create his canvases varying their texture through a great range of absorbency. After the application of numerous layers of thinned paint, the canvas was placed upright to dry so that the element of nature and gravity became involved with the process in the way the paint soaks into the raw linen canvas.

Yun's art is the passage which connects the poles between artificial and nature, making and unmaking, made and unmade. Unlike most Western artists who seek inspiration from extraordinary perspectives, Yun finds insight at the moment of being his most 'natural' being. Yun aims to exclude from his art anything artificial or compulsory, which can risk him being separated from nature. The fading columns of deep brown coloured paint disperse at its edges, dissolving into the empty space around it, marking its existence, evoking the ephemerality of our life. The pulse of the artist is imbued in the thick brushstrokes, producing a sense of the rhythmic breathing of life itself, which acts as a medium to connect the painting with the world outside and with the viewer. The colour field in the canvas is not there to express itself only, but exists to evoke the empty space as well, revealing another world in the area of the unpainted regions. In this context, Yun's work is not an abstract painting but a form of calligraphy and one can say that he successfully created a new form of abstract art.

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