Kyong Tack Hong (b. 1968)
Kyong Tack Hong (b. 1968)

Kyong Tack Hong (b. 1968)

Kyong Tack Hong (b. 1968)
left: signed in Korean and English (on the reverse: centre: signed in Korean and English (on the reverse); signed in artists' signature (on the reverse stretcher); right: signed in Korean and English & titled, inscribed and dated 'Pens I, oil on canvas, 1995-1997' (on the reverse)
oil canvas
21st Century
Christie's Hong Kong, 27 May 2007, Lot 427
Acquired from the above by the present owner
CAIS Gallery, Hong Kyoung Tack, Seoul, Korea, 2008 (illustrated, unpaged).
Sale room notice
Please note that Lot 47 work is signed dated and titled on the reverse.

Brought to you by

Eric Chang
Eric Chang

Lot Essay

Pens 1
"I want to paint the vivid rawness of our times, from religion to pornography." - Hong Kyung-Tack
Born in 1968, Hong Kyung-Tack belongs to the first generation that experienced the benefits from radical economic growth in Korea. It is interesting to see that the talented artists from this generation are the first to enthusiastically introduce pop and kitsch elements into Korean contemporary art (Fig. 1). It is well exemplified in Hong's flamboyant paintings filled with daily objects like toys, pens, and books with dazzling florescent colours. Unabashedly indulged in glitzy overtones, Hong creates active movement, elaborate balance and dramatic tension to convey layers of clever symbolism on the juxtaposition of polarities between Pop Art and religion, high art and low art, the sacred and the secular, desire and transcendence. His paintings never fail to have ample effects of capturing the drama and beauty of the fleeting moment, successfully reproducing the visions of his mind. Hong has cleverly pursued an art practice that seduces the viewer with a colourful and technical virtuosity that belies the seriousness of his concerns and the complexity of his eccentric persona.
The raw primary colour palette interacts with simple forms of pens and pencils, creating explosive fireworks-like patterns in the Pencil series. Featured here, Pencil 1 (Lot 44), a masterpiece from the series, is the painting that set auction record in 2007 and entitled him to rank "the most expensive artist" among the Korean contemporary artists ever featured in Christie's Hong Kong sales. This series is related to the Insect Collecting series, in that both inspired by Hong's childhood recollections on children's heartless cruelty (Fig. 2). As a little boy, he witnessed that children indifferently speared insects to death with pencils. Hong was shocked and felt indignation at killing little living beings for pleasure, yet at the same time he became furious at himself for taking no action and letting things happen. Pencil 1 is a picture diary for Hong to record the moment when the everyday objects become a deadly weapon, and the violence inherent in life rise to the surface. It is a therapeutic process for him to erase or remedy his traumatic memory; the sharp tips are flexibly bent, prohibited from any possible malevolent use; the slanted arrangement of pliable pencils with brilliant colours creates a fireworks pattern with rhythmic pulse, visual abundance and cheerful vitality across the canvas.
The painting offers a surfeit of flamboyant colours and diverse forms of pencils, compressed into the composition leaving no traces of emptiness of the canvas, as if they infinitely multiply themselves. The lack of empty space and exaggerations in size and colours of the objects are also an intense expression on the chaotic world and a reflection on people's obsessive propensities in the era of artificiality. Pencil 1 displays that Hong's aesthetic sphere is encrusted with cognitive dissonance, supported by his technical proficiency in inserting ironic colours to his chosen subjects, thus re-contextualizing 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 colour; the additional morphing of plastic conceals its basis essence by flexibly exaggerating itself. The glimpse of pretentiousness that kitsch objects generate is formed by the utilization of primary colours that act as pure colours of the paint tube, hence enhancing the artificiality of the objects.
In the Library series, Hong's another noted series, his technical proficiency and dense assortment of personal and universal symbols also give us a sense to his rich and complicated view of the contemporary world (Fig. 3). Books might conventionally be viewed as symbols of knowledge and tradition, but they become bearers of a dizzying but meaningless array of colour and stimulation, contributing not to enlightenment but to a claustrophobic environment, as Hong's 2005 Library No. 5 (Fig. 4) exemplifies. The aggregated piles of books create a hypnotic and nearly impossible space, dense but not stable, suggesting the obsessive personality behind its accumulation, wryly depicting the near impossibility of maintaining a spiritual balance in the modern world. Since as early as 2000, Hong has developed the Funkchestra series with his consistent obsession to build a sleek version of kitsch art. The term was coined by the artist combining "Funk" and "Orchestra." In the series, painstakingly clean and organized patterns burst into psychedelic ornamentation, deliriously captivating us with a musical composition of graphic patterns and colours, stretching out of the canvas in amusing depth, shapes and colors. Our perceptual reflex evokes a sense of familiarity, a motion so strongly pop-cultural and musical, imitating a likeness to MTV. Hong's Skull (Fig. 5) and Andy Warhol (Fig. 6) are surrounded by innumerable collection of circles, splurging into larger, more decorative configuration mimicking the neon light bulbs or even the intensely vivid pixels of a LCD/LED screen. The stunning brightness of the shrine-like compactness pierces our eyes with retinal excitement, shining us with gaudy glitz of kitsch art. The pop poster-like graphics reflect a kaleidoscopic composition, imitating the hallucinatory shapes of Psychedelic art, where Hong too shares parallel themes of political, social and spiritual emotion of psychedelic state of consciousness.
Through Hong Kyung-Tack's oeuvre, he has successfully investigates the wide spectrum of the dichotomy from life and death to design and painting. As his early masterpiece, Pencil 1 displays, Hong always starts painting from his own experience, but knows how to evoke a larger context through his erudite understanding of colour theory and eye mechanism, simultaneously mutating sensibilities of the mass cultured modernity. 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 Hong 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. Hong paints with the eyes of dispassionate historians, as he stated, "I want to paint the vivid rawness of our times, from religion to pornography."

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