RHEE SEUNDJA (1918-2009)
RHEE SEUNDJA (1918-2009)

Sous l'écorce vive

RHEE SEUNDJA (1918-2009)
Sous l'écorce vive
signed and dated 'SEUND JA RHEE 63' (lower right); titled and inscribed 'Sous l'écorce vive A Jean Claude et Danielle Molinari Pour éternelle amitié 20 Août 1979 Seund Ja Rhee' (on the reverse); inscribed '6330F213' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
92 x 73 cm. (36 1/4 x 28 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1963
Collection of the artist
Private Collection, France (gifted in 1979 by the artist when present owner was a curator at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris)

Brought to you by

Ada Tsui (徐文君)
Ada Tsui (徐文君) Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Korean 20th century abstract art articulates a different logic compared to that of the West. Unlike Western paintings that focus on the formal elements, Korean abstract art held a great regard for the reflective nature and the meditative condition of traditional Asian ink paintings, which were exemplified in three works by Kim Whan-Ki and Rhee Seundja featured in this sale. Highly regarded as the most important pioneers of Korean 20th century abstract art, they are the first to appropriate the formal abstraction explored by artists in the West – rendering nature through organic motifs, geometrical forms, repetitive brushstrokes and careful layering of paint.

Kim Whan-Ki's Early Morning painted in 1967 illustrates his artistic development of abstraction during the 1960s when he lived in New York. During this New York period from 1963 to his death in 1974, Kim explored a variety of materials and techniques, including gouache, sand mixed with oil paint, oil on newspaper, collage, and paper maché. As demonstrates, Kim emphasized harmony in colour and pattern, and evoked the flowing charm of Asian ink paintings, seeking his own abstraction. Through his constant effort and ceaseless experiment to deconstruct and simplify forms, the artist's own approach to 'pointillism' began to appear in his works in the early 1970s. Two rows of points in the upper and low area of Early Morning are very important emergence of 'pointillism,' displaying the origin of all the lines and dots are the common shapes of mountains, trees, or little islands which can be found throughout the Korean landscape. As he ultimately aimed, Kim's work is nature itself.

Rhee Seundja is one of the first generations of Korean 20th century abstraction, who successfully positioned herself as an abstract painter in Paris during the late 1950s. Untitled from 1960 and Sous l'écorce vive from 1963 featured here, are great examples to illustrate her style developed in the early 1960s. As two works featured here exemplify, the works from the 1960s display her pursuit of abstraction based on content, unifying form and content into one, which was contrary to most other Western abstract painters of the Time. Sous l'écorce vive and Untitled are powerful anchor points to introduce Rhee Seundja's vast body of works, both emblematic of the artist's most important period of her career which propelled her to international recognition.

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