Yun Hyong-Keun is widely known for his simple yet highly meditative paintings, evoking the concept of nature in art, a core idea of traditional Asian ink painting. Yun’s work appears to be a part of nature, or even being unified with nature, without any hint of artifice. His process of art displays a state of making and unmaking; the results bridge a character between made and unmade. Yun’s ultimate philosophy of nature and art is the most significant element that differentiates his art from Western abstract painting which emphasizes the artificial process by the artist rather than affirming a harmony with nature. Yun finds most insight at the moment of being his most ‘natural’ self, unlike Western artists who pursue inspiration from unusual moment and energy. Yun aims to exclude from his art anything artificial or compulsory, which can risk appearing to be apart from nature.
Throughout Yun’s artistic development over six decades, Kim Whan-Ki, one of the most important pioneers in the history of Korean abstract painting and his father-in-law, was another inspiring mentor to him, especially for a sense of materiality. As Kim gradually transited from using heavy texture to applying only a thin surface echoing Asian ink painting, Yun’s 1971 painting, Blue explicitly displays this transformation from the thick density of his early 1960s paintings to a diluted pigment completely absorbed into the canvas as if the paint were ink fading onto paper. As early as 1973, Yun started experimenting with his signature colours of using two kinds of oil pigments as a symbolic depiction of the earth; Burnt Umber represents earth, and Light Ultramarine the ocean. As this masterpiece Umber-Blue 7-IIII-75 (Lot 20) exemplifies, the unique mixture of two pigments allows a colour of great range and depth, which Yun preferred to call “the colour of rotted leaves.” Opposed to the deliberate application of thick oil paint, this diluted thin paint naturally drives Yun to release any compulsive desire to control his material and invites nature to create various textures and a great range of absorbency. More importantly, this process allows Yun to add the concept of time into his painting.
Selected venues for Yun’s solo exhibition include the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Strasbourg, the Stiftung Für Konkrete Kunst in Reutlingen, the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, and Donald Judd Foundation in New York. His works can be found in the public collections of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, The Samsung Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul, the Fukuoka Art Museum in Fukuoka, the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art in Kitakyushu, the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art in Hiroshima, The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, M+ Museum in Hong Kong, among many others.