Korea is one of the regions that have developed the most various abstract art styles and movements in Asia. Individual artists have their own signature style. But there is a commonality among the Korean abstract artists that they all put an emphasis on content. It makes a clear distinction from Western abstract art, which pursues formality. Pioneers of Korean abstract art such as Kim Whan-Ki, Park Re-Hyun, and Rhee Seundja featured here, exemplify how Korean artists seek the perfect balance between the material and spirit, East and West, and content and form.
Kim Whan-Ki is widely known as a painter who epitomized the archetype of Korean aesthetics. Kim found a limitless inspiration in the austere and regal beauty from varied Korean motifs. Throughout his lifelong artistic career, Kim devoted himself to capture the poetic emotion and spirit imbued in both the naturalism and the actual nature of Korea. He transformed from the figurative to abstraction during the 1960s. Untitled 8-IIII-71 featured here illustrates that Kim emphasized harmony in colour and pattern, and evoked the flowing charm of Asian ink paintings.
Park Re-Hyun left a legacy in the history of Korean modern art by breaking the convention of traditional Asian ink painting and developing abstract art unique to her own. Park has been widely underappreciated in Korea mainly due gender discrimination which was rampant in Korea during the modern era and her sudden death in 1976. Untitled, one of her mesmerizing master pieces, feature here shows that her intense endeavor and implacable devotion to overcome social discrimination came to fruition. Furthermore, not only did she come to substantiate herself as an artist, she became a true master of her medium.
Rhee Seundja is one of the first Korean pioneers who successfully positioned herself as an abstract painter in Paris during the 1950s. Rhee was ceaseless to develop her own style of abstraction. She wanted to pursue abstraction based on content. Two works featured here display Rhee's interest in combining form and narrative content. Contrary to its simple refined appearance, the painting belies a painstakingly time consuming process. It results in an exquisite texture, mesmerizing upon careful examination of the material.