In Unit 1, I challenged my intention to explore my interest in nature and beauty through artists such as Michael Landy, Ellsworth Kelly, and Mark Quinn and introduce Korean art traditions and Hanji.
I started asking how my work could properly communicate my intentions to the audience and tested this, by adopting a methodology suitable for my ideas and interests using paper and natural objects and opened up the possibility of my next level of practice by experimenting with sculptures of poetry creation, relief printing, single printing and book format.
Therefore, as I began to symbolically appeal the spirit of the Korean and my root by highlighting the characteristics of Dak Paper, I am expanding the research topic more deeply in Unit 2. It is related to studying the development history of Korean art. And it reinforces the research on the function and role of Hanji, from traditional use of Hanji to modern and contemporary art. This is because finding ideas developed in contemporary art beyond the function of paper is like finding my current position in Western culture beyond my oriental culture tradition.
In many ways, I've been making a book format objects in one way or another way. The main focus is to allow images to be read in visual language through book objects rather than seen on the walls, whilst questioning what book objects are, what they can be and break the idea of traditional book concepts.
Yu-Rim Kim_Haeng|_Hanji, Thread_70×70cm_2020
Yu-Rim Kim_line_Hanji, and MukThread_70×70cm_2020
Book-object as Language
What is a book object? What can book objects be?
Kim Yu-rim drew a line with ink on a book made of Korean paper and put her heart in the line. There is no writing in her book. Instead, it contains a long practice of folding, cutting, sewing, tearing, and drying paper. The lines made by the accumulation of Korean paper, also the lines made by the threads that bind Korean paper, and finally the lines of mulberry fibre exposed by wetting Korean paper with water, to which lines of ink drawn on them became the stories she wanted to talk about. She tried to find the line of emotion that she lost while making a book by overlapping the texture of Korean paper like feathers. Her work focused on the materiality of Hanji and the beauty of Muk (ink).
My work focuses on the combination of Hanji's materiality and print pigment. In some ways, it feels harmonious and calm, but in other ways, they also cause feelings of conflict. This is because there are printmaking pigments coexisting instead of using unique ink. Additionally, English is printed on Korean paper. This unique combination of materiality causes feelings of tranquillity, but my book object raises questions with a combination of contrasting materiality. The gap between Korean tradition and my current cultural position is also in the relationship of conflict structure. In this sense, my work is related to the idea of cross culture. My oriental tradition is the structure of conflict that I experience while meeting Western culture.
For thousands of years Korean art had been developed through the influence of China and Japan. This is because of the geographic location of the Korean peninsula. (Hammer, 2001, p.51). However, since the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) Era they started to distinguish their own art style from China and Japan and this is evident. With the creation of the Korean language (Hangul) in 1443 during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Korea developed their own culture.
As contemporary artist Park Chae-sung mentioned, if the main style of Chinese Painting is shown through their bold lines and the style of Japanese paintings is shown through their various colours, then the way we can distinguish Korean paintings through “the substantial lines like a Korean pot, obang seak (five colours), drawing lines starting from plum, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo”. As such, the uniqueness of Korean painting can be seen in line and obang colours. Korea has developed the five colours into traditional colours in painting and art genres.
Joseon Korea began to accept Western culture after the port opened in 1876 and the annexation of Korea and Japan in 1910 and a Western style of painting was also born in the field of paintings. During the Japanese colonial period, most artists began to use oil Painting and Canvases rather than the traditional Korean inks and paper. As Joseon Korea began to accept Western civilization and faced "new” ideologies, in terms of Korean politics, economy, and culture. As it was difficult to establish independent modernity due to the annexation of Korea and Japan in 1910, on 26 February 1876, the Treaty of Kanghwa was concluded after much violence and weeks of negotiations. It forced Joseon to establish diplomatic relations with Japan to open its ports for trade (Kim, 2016, p.11). Many discussions have been raised on the starting point of modern art, but above all, the introduction of Western art became a turning point for art in Korea. Art critic, Lee, Gyeong-Seong had settled on the opening of the Joseon ports in 1876 as the starting point of modernity, stressing that Japanese colonial rule impeded Korea’s own attempts to modernize with the introduction of Western culture. Lee also downplayed “the need to determine the precise starting point of Korean modernity, instead emphasizing the prolonged influx of Western ideology and technology as the defining element of modernization” (Horlyck, 2017).
Compared to the West, modernism in Korean art started from the dark history of the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953). In fact, it was illegal for any Koreans to study abroad during the Japanese colonial period, they were only allowed to study in Japanese Universities. (Horlyck, 2017). On the other hand in Japan, abstract monochrome movement began after the Japanese colonial period by a new generation of people without education. ‘Dansaekhwa’ paintings followed the influence of western modernism in an informally visual aspect, but they had developed a unique concept of his own.
Dynamic & Alive Korean Art, that took place in 2021, held at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary art, 4 key words were mentioned to explain ‘What is Korean aesthetic’. Those key words were “srong” (sacred and sublime), “a” (elegant and simple), “sok” (decorative and worldly), and “hwa” (dynamic and hybrid). These 4 key words talk about the distinctive styles assimilated with the eastern Asian aesthetic aspect. In conclusion, though Korean paintings have changed and developed by the process of modernisation it represented the Korean culture and also developed its own strong visual identity and heritage, still making it uniquely Korean.
As I discovered the difference between Korean painting from Chinese and Japanese, I created images by highlighting the Korean art tradition. It is a monochrome image with a monochrome style that is different from Japanese multi-coloured prints and an image that has been worked in five traditional colours. The history of Japanese modernism and the characteristics of painting and printmaking are well known in the West, but not well known in Korea.
Paul mentioned history of modernism in Japan during a lecture at the British Museum. In college, Tony, Paul, Brian, and Leo all identified Korean paper the same as Japanese paper. Through this experience at college, I wanted to introduce the Korean art tradition to the western audience, which are similar in appearance but have different attributes. What is unique about the Korean Art? After researching, I have concluded Korean art to be consisting of the five colours that identified the traditional colours of Korea and their own language, Hangul. By integrating Korean traditional colours with Western modernist abstract images, my artwork embodies a figurative exploration of encounters with Western culture. Through this combination, I aim to represent, through conceptual art, the assimilation, conflict, and transformation that occur when my cultural traditions and conventions intersect with Western influences. The artwork visually depicts the complex interplay and changes that arise from this cultural fusion.
A map, Korea in East Asia
Book: Hong, S P. (2008) Joseon sidae hoehwasaron (The Art History of Joseon Dynasty). Seoul: Munye..
Book: Horlyck, C. (2017) Korean art from the 19th Century to the present, London, Reaktion Ltd.
Website: Choi, C. (2017) What is modernism? Available at: https://www.artisight.co.kr/news/view.php?no=32637]
Text: Cengiz Dinc, (2007) Modernity and the West: Evolution of Their Relationship Available at:https://www.researchgate.net/publication/294657941_Modernity_and_the_West_Evolution_of_Their_Relationship
Text: Exhibition (2021) Dynamic & Alive Korean Art, Seoul, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
Text: Forman S. (2018) Modern and Monochrome: Korean Abstract Art at the Powerlong Museum, That's Online, Available at: https://www.thatsmags.com/shanghai/post/26059/modern-and-monochrome-korean-abstract-art
Book: Hammer, E. (2001) THE ARTS OF KOREA: A Resource for Educators, Newyouk, The metropolitan museum of art, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/The_Arts_of_Korea_A_Resource_for_Educators
Hanji painting and conceptual art
Hanji painting involves the meticulous process of tearing and meticulously pasting dyed Hanji, a traditional Korean paper derived from the mulberry tree, without employing conventional paint mediums. Distinguished by its exceptional quality, Hanji possesses unique advantages over Western paper. Leveraging these inherent characteristics, dyed Hanji in diverse hues replaces conventional paint, adroitly affixed to the canvas by hand instead of relying on a brush. By adapting the thickness of Korean paper, the expressive potential of watercolours and oil paintings developed, thereby fostering the emergence of Hanji paintings as a novel art genre in the contemporary era, capable of accommodating various painting styles and genres.
At first glance, Ham Sup's work looks like an oil painting, but it is a Hanji Painting, which is torn and attached with dyed papers. The physical characteristics and variability of Hanji created a formative beauty. There are always five colours in all of his works. It is significant that the five colours have used from Korean art tradition to modern and contemporary art.
I'm interested in the language of materials and how I can consider and utilize their properties to gain a better understanding of the development of Hanji up to the present time. Due to its inherent warmth and unique properties, Hanji is not only used for traditional crafts but also finds application in contemporary art, such as windows and wallpaper. Drawing inspiration from Hanji painting, I created an image using printmaking techniques. Instead of dyeing Hanji with paint, I used relief prints to create colours and textures, tearing and gluing the image onto paper. Subsequently, I cut out the printed image, connected the pieces like a collage, and bridge them together. Through this approach, I aim to explore a new artistic genre by combining the principles of printmaking as a printmaker. I believe that the cultural background encompassing both Korea and my British identity leads me to innovate and create without hesitation.
In Unit 1, ideas were developed based on the contrasting characteristics of Hanji's strength and fragility, while in Unit 2, ideas were explored from Hanji's elegance and adhesive qualities. I discovered an intriguing parallel between Ham Sup's artwork, where he used glue to attach dak fibre material to the canvas, and John Lathan's use of plaster to attach books to the canvas. Typically, paper is considered a two dimensional medium, but Ham Sup's works evoke a sense of three dimensionality similar to John Lathan's artwork.
The artworks of John Lathan and Ham Sup have provided valuable inspiration for my artistic practice, guiding me towards avenues of experimentation. By challenging the conventional value and structure of objects as repositories of knowledge, I have been able to explore and exploit their inherent qualities. In doing so, I seek to understand materials and objects beyond their traditional functionality and aesthetic considerations. This exploration extends to the manipulation and deconstruction of book structures, while also incorporating the unique characteristics of Hanji in my artistic process.
Going into Unit 3, my research will centre on the captivating subjects of botanic gardens, landscapes, orientalism, and the postmodern architectural movement known as deconstructivism. These areas of inquiry offer rich avenues for scholarly exploration, intersecting art and culture.
Han sup, 2020, Dak, Goo Goo garlley
Text: fr. Marc, Taize (2005) Ham Sup's work, Available at, https://www.hamsup.com/ecriticism_read.html?page=1&number
Website: John Latham: Skoob Works, Lisson gallery, Available at,https://www.lissongallery.com/exhibitions/john-latham--5
YouTube: John Latham interview by Marianne Brouwer, Available at, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ne-2yY309jg
Text: Conceptual Art in Britain 1964–1979, Available at, https://www.tate.org.uk/documents/1125/tb_exh_conceptual_art_publications_large_print_guide.pdf
Book: Louisa Lee (2015) Discursive Sites: Text-Based Conceptual Art Practice in Britain, University of New York