17 Nov 2022 — 17 Dec 2022
Kim Chonghak

The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The earth lay white under the night sky.
- Kawabata Yasunari, 'Snow Country'

Kim Chong Hak has numerous nicknames, and Seoraksan Hwaga (Seoraksan Mountain painter) is one of them. He lived at the foot of Seoraksan Mountain for 35 years, and the artist finds joy in painting the wildflowers, greenery, and landscapes he encountered there. He is also admired winterscapes, and the name Seoraksan (雪嶽山, great mountain of snowy peaks) is also based on the idea of winter. Dongguk Yeoji Seungnam (東國輿地勝覽, The Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country, 1481) describes the mountain gradually clothing itself in white, starting around Hangawi (a major mid-autumn harvest festival on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, or tr: around late September on the Western calendar), the snowline barely receding until Haji (Summer equinox, mid-June), earning it the seorak (snowy peak) prefix to san (mountain). JeungboMunheonBigo (增補文獻備考, Expanded Reference Compilation of Documents, an encyclopedia for culture and institutions published in 1908) also notes that snow persisted on the ridge, and the surface of the rocky mountain were also white like snow, hence the name seorak-san. Rich with the ambiance of snowy peaks, Kim Chong Hak’s Winter is the most unusual of his four season-themed quadrilogy. The earth lays pure under the sky in Winter (2020), pristine and sacred with negative space, elevated above any secular impurity. There is something hallowed about snowscapes, regardless of how many winters or how much snowfall one has witnessed. The artist recognized the blithe and the careless, untouched, and pure, a sublimity that he is no stranger to. Sacred and above secular impurity does not mean only happiness and peace. Unrelenting wind and heavy snow bend and break what grows out from the ground . The scarlet thorn brush would have been a harsh sight, but it is rather warm in these paintings. These are sights that are increasingly unfamiliar for city dwellers. Much like the first sentence of 『Snow Country』, we must now pass through a “long tunnel into the snow country” to appreciate this somnolent view. A snow country so white, its many underlying timbre captured by the masterful brush of Kim Chong Hak, is presented in his solo exhibition Winter, at Gallery2.

Sim Eunlog (SimEunlog MetaLab Researcher and Art Critic)
Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 53x65.1cm, 2017