Curated by Katharine Kostyál
White Cube is pleased to present a survey exhibition of works by Korean artist Minjung Kim at Mason’s Yard.
Traditionally trained in Korean watercolour painting and calligraphy from the age of nine, Kim is among the few female heirs of the Dansaekhwa (Korean monochrome painting) movement, having studied under one of its masters, Park Seo-Bo, at Hong Ik University, Seoul. This major exhibition is the first truly comprehensive presentation of Kim’s work in the UK to date and includes paintings from series drawn from across her career, which reflect her refined minimalist language and highlight her focused exploration of abstraction and serial process.
Kim was born in Korea in 1962 but in the early 1990s, following an abrupt change in her personal circumstances, she moved to Europe, initially to Milan, where she studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera. Kim has since lived and worked in Italy, France and, more recently, America but continues to employ the traditional Korean material of hanji in her work. Hanji is a significant choice for the artist since it is deeply rooted within Korean culture. Much favoured by the Dansaekhwa artists, for centuries it has been used not only for painting, crafts and calligraphy but also for clothing and shoes and as a replacement for glass in the windows and doors of traditional houses. Made from the dried, inner bark of the paper mulberry tree using a complex and labour intensive process, it has a tactile surface reminiscent of skin and is characteristically strong with wide fibres, allowing air and light to pass through it. In Kim’s work, hanji is often marked by burning the edges or centre with an incense stick or a candle and then superimposed, layer by layer, using a collage technique. ‘Burning came about from my exploration of lines’ she has said, ‘I could feel the power of nature in using fire, but also a different sense of control.’
Kim has described her work as ‘a visualization of Zen and Tao’ and her unique process, whereby she remains silent and of even breath when executing each mark, results in paintings with rhythmical abstract surfaces that seem to pulsate, as if the result of organic growth. In this way, Kim’s method is in keeping with the Dansaekhwa approach to painting. The term ‘Tao’, which can be understood as a ‘path’ or journey without any definitive end, relates closely to her work, which fundamentally connects mind with body and body with subject in a controlled, ritualistic manner. Characterised by their intense, conceptual focus, her canvases suggest a catharsis, harnessing the energy that results from repetitive mark making.