Born in Korea in 1911, Nam Kwan grew up and studied in Japan. after the independence of Korea, Nam Kwan returned to his motherland, but soon after witnessing the tragedy of the Korean War (1950-53) and realising the huge discrepancy between the Western abstract art introduced through Japan and the local art scene, Nam left for Paris in 1955 to find his own visual language.
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. Nam recalled, "I am employing old themes from my motherland-ancient remains, masks, ancient plant pattern."
In Tres Ancien (2) (Lot 404), created in 1968 right after his return from Paris, the unidentifiable yet balanced pictograph itself represents human's profound pursuit of harmony between chaos and order, memory and unconsciousness, and the organic and inorganic. The muted colors easily found in eastern ink wash paintings and the smudging effect of the watercolors further fill the canvas with the oriental aura and the lapse of time, enabled by his long period of spiritual training. rather than visual aspects, Nam more focuses on expressing the true spirits of human.
The most basic emotions of human such as joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure and the eternity of life are expressed in his delicate yet refrained palette. Beyond the eastern aesthetics, Nam also enjoyed the effects created by the Western techniques such
as dripping, décalcomanie, and collage. as Gaston Diehl, the founder of Salon de Mai, lauded, Nam Kwan is "truly the Master who can fuse the East and the West together without sacrificing either."