9 May 2019 — 8 Jun 2019

 Sejin Kwon's page
Sejin Kwon

Appreciating landscape painting is possible without any prior knowledge. Everything one needs to know is already contained in the frame; the grandeur and frivolousness of nature, the painter's capable strokes and sensibilities. They are there to be recognized. However, they are often forgotten and not appreciated. Standing before a beautiful painting, the viewer may forgo the recognition that it is a painting, or unknowingly become immersed with the picturesque landscape. Nonetheless, the artist may not encapsulate all that was beheld within a landscape painting. What he does is merely interpret nature with his choice of art material.

Artist Sejin Kwon's latest solo exhibition is an interpretation of ocean surface. More accurately, it is an interpretation of a single photo containing the ocean surface. A single photo was the only source he painted from. Kwon shares how enjoyable it was for him working with gradations of ink and chiaroscuro methods. He explains that photography is the less formal medium (in comparison to paintings). The explanation comes from the testimonial, or taxidermical nature of photographs. Oriental paintings by definition are paintings of imagined utopia, so painting in that style based on an actual photograph is oxymoronic.

The western world's better-known landscape paintings rely on perspective and oils to transpose nature onto the canvas. The oil is easily corrected then or later. The eastern world's landscape paintings are based on the artist's subjective interpretation of nature using brush and ink, which is very difficult to correct thereafter. Realistically detailed brushwork (寫實), abstractive freehand brushwork (寫意), and idealized visions (理想) are all present in the traditional oriental landscape painting (山水畵). The presented works are based on a photo of the ocean just off the coast of Yeosu, a port city located on the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula. The photo was taken by the artist himself. He chose the photo because nature's law and order was tangible in the slight undulating ocean currents; something that pairs well with the ink and brush. His presented work bodes the viewer to return to his choice of medium, and ask the question of how, rather than what?

Kwon painted using chiaroscuro methods as well as gradations(濃淡) between thick and thin. His use of this contrasting technique is clear in the dispersing column of glint down the top-center of his work. Like a binary code of on-off and yes-no, the areas painted and left blank becomes an area of material contrast. The illusion of trickling glint of light is presented by the contrasted shades of ink.

Kwon had consciously avoided the ink-and-wash style of sumukhwa (水墨畵). More specifically, he wanted to keep away from the history and tradition of style associated with the style. He painted from a concrete photograph, while the ink-and-wash sumukhwa was frequently the substrate for an elusive concept. Sumukhwa drawn on paper must be completed as a whole before the ink dries out. The deft brush must guide the propagation of the water and ink, to strike balance and wholeness before the ink dries. This temporal, fleeting character of working with ink-and-wash made it conceptually appropriate for painting the mountains and the trees as seen in one's mind. Kwon departed from the southern-school literati painting's (南宗文人畵) fixation on the ink-and-wash style, and the pyeongdam ideology's (平淡: even and mild, lucid) adulation of the ink. Instead, he explored the ink-and-wash as a medium, and in this exhibition is his sharing of what he found in that exploration.

Sejin Kwon's solo exhibition <1248> features two works. One is the quilted , composed of 1200 smaller works each measuring 10cm by 10cm. The other is
, composed of 48 quilted pieces measuring 50cm by 50cm. The two may be understood as two separate works, 1248 works, or some variable thereof. However they are objectified, they are all based from a single photograph that was divided up into smaller portions using square blocks in a grid; one grid had 1200 squares while another had 48. The grids are Kwon's formative experimentations in the ink-and-wash style, on composition and technique. In the real world, there is no inherent scene or image to what the viewer beholds. That scene and composition is created as the artist works with a proverbial viewfinder. By extension of that logic, a partial view of the vast ocean, an even more partial one-forty-eighth, and one-twelve-hundredth images can just as well be images.

The artist set a regular amount to be painted each day and applied himself with diligence. is a testimony to the countless hours of labor. He avoids impromptu applications working within precise predesignated boundaries. Any serendipity encountered was strictly within those set boundaries. Despite the highly iterative task and material, each panel has immutable variations. Such fortuity is inherent to the nature of the medium. Eastern paintings use a brush soaked in ink, drawn across the paper to allow for ink seepage and propagation. The final details are down to chance, and to control the propagation of ink is a difficult challenge.

For the present solo exhibition, Kwon wanted to provide structure to the style and medium of painting. He wanted to mesh photography as a testimony to reality and ink as a substrate of concept. He abandons the traditional goals of the style, but maintains an understanding of its properties. In the end, paintings are determined by their substrate. For this exhibition, the artist used ink sticks, a writing brush, and paper. The liquid state of ink transferred onto paper via the artist's performance is one definition of painting; a performance that demands an understanding of not only the nature of flowing water, but also an understanding of the nature of the medium at hand.

installation view