Extending the long history of landscape painting and literati art into the contemporary era, Whang Inkie takes an inventive approach to an old genre, exploiting the limits of new materials and the viewer's conventional assumptions when engaging a two-dimensional painting.
Whang recreates masterpieces of Korean literati art; his works are not mere facsimiles but, by employing new materials and an exacting technique, he both challenges our perception of mechanical reproduction and envelopes his recognized-subjects in an altogether new aura. Using his signature assemblage technique, Whang meticulously arranges thousands of solid-colored plastic blocks on a wooden panel (Lot 1529). The rigid grid structure mimics the pixilation of mass-produced images viewed in magnification. The surface varies in depth with the built-up component blocks, creating a visual tension between the rigors of technique and the urge to disassemble and blur the gird in one's mind and allow the familiar landscape image to emerge. Executed completely by hand, the familiar landscape exudes a new vibrancy as the viewer's eye darts along the undulating mountainous forms, dabbled with surprisingly highlights of juxtaposed color blocks.
Similarly, in Old Breeze 09183 (Lot 1530), Whang replaces his legos with Swarovski crystals. He attempted to use other materials but found none offered the same captivating level of reflection. Within his deliberately limited technique, Whang pushes the materials to their limits, and the suggested depth and scale of the composition itself stands at odds with the play of light that moves elusively across the flat canvas. Whang's appropriation of literati paintings celebrates the sophistication and creativity of these "old masters". At the same time, his technique and materials cleverly up-end our taken for granted notions of image-making, suggesting that the new media and materials of our contemporary era offer new ways of seeing that have only begun to be explored.