Myonghi Kang: The artist who spent three decades on a single painting

Written by Oscar Holland, CNNHong Kong

It was the late Nineteen Eighties when South Korean artist Myonghi Kang started work on her portray “Le temps des camélias” (“The Time of Camellias”). Residing in Paris’ nineteenth arrondissement on the time, she would periodically revisit the then-vertical canvas so as to add strokes of colour or floral varieties.

“I might return to the portray with all these questions in my thoughts, and reminiscences from touring,” she recalled, by way of a translator, in a telephone interview.

However the portray by no means felt completed. Kang ultimately deserted her creation, and it was not till she took it to South Korea’s Jeju Island in 2007 that she felt impressed to revisit the paintings — and to modify its orientation to that of a traditional horizontal panorama.

“It was solely once I introduced the portray to Jeju in springtime that I had the braveness, after 10 years, to work on it once more,” she mentioned. “I had a variety of camellias in my studio, and so I began bringing in all the weather that I noticed round me.”

Myonghi Kang's "Le temps des camellia" was finally completed in 2018.

Myonghi Kang’s “Le temps des camellia” was lastly accomplished in 2018. Credit score: Courtesy of Villepin

It will be one other decade earlier than the ethereal portray, now on display at Hong Kong’s Villepin gallery, was full. As such, the work depicts not solely the colourful flowers alluded to in its title, however the passing of time itself.

“I can not actually clarify,” Kang mentioned. “I simply felt this portray needed to be made like that. I trusted the second — to know the fitting second for me to color the completely different components till I used to be completed.”

“I might not dare say that I paint time — that will be very conceited — however time is in what I paint,” she later added. “I let myself be the palms of time. I obey time, however don’t attempt to manipulate it.”

This impulsive method is typical of Kang, whose quietly radiant artwork reveals her complicated relationship with nature. Now in her mid-70s, she will spend years on a single piece, her often-gentle brushstrokes belying a course of she described as “very, very intense.”

“I simply take a look at work and really feel they don’t seem to be completed. And it may possibly even be exhausting to sleep,” she defined. “They’re at all times transferring and progressing, and typically I by no means get the sensation they’re performed. Typically, I want I may have a drink and neglect about it, nevertheless it’s not doable. I at all times must attempt to resolve the little issues I see on daily basis in entrance of me.”

Myonghi Kang's "La maison de opticien" ("The Optician's House).

Myonghi Kang’s “La maison de opticien” (“The Optician’s Home). Credit score: Courtesy of Villepin

Fairly instantly, nonetheless, the compulsion to signal — and thus end — a portray will strike her “like a lightning bolt,” she mentioned.

“It is not one thing that I plan or know rationally. It is spontaneous.”

‘Nature is the whole lot’

Whereas Kang’s absorbing work seem summary at first, they’re usually grounded on this planet round her. However although her creations resemble landscapes, they by no means depict a single particular scene, reasonably an amalgamation of sights, reminiscences and sensations.

“Each second, from once I get up to the time I begin working, is a part of the portray,” mentioned Kang, who can be identified for writing poetry. “And reminiscences — possibly from 10 years earlier than — of camellias, for instance, can even be built-in.

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“There’s not one figurative approach of expressing what I paint. It is the buildup of observing — making an attempt to seize the sky, for instance — and actually seize the ‘entire,’ reasonably than a selected camellia or a sure rock.”

Set throughout three flooring in Hong Kong, Kang’s newest present brings collectively works from the previous decade, together with the aforementioned “Le temps des camélias.” Spending time with the canvases helps convey the artist’s hazy subject material — whether or not orange blossom, the home of a neighboring optician or clouds swirling in pale blue skies — into sharper focus.

The gallerist behind the present, Arthur de Villepin, believes the work’s magnificence is discovered within the small “particulars” noticed in its firm.

“You see the completely different layers, and also you see that, typically, the brushstrokes will likely be vivid and fairly fast and signify a sure a part of her persona,” he mentioned over the telephone from the south of France. “Or typically the colours will likely be very brilliant. Then at different moments the colours fade away, and that capability to place completely different lives at completely different moments … that is what I discovered wonderful.”

Kang's work on display at Villepin gallery in Hong Kong.

Kang’s work on show at Villepin gallery in Hong Kong. Credit score: Courtesy of Villepin

Full with pure sounds taking part in from hidden audio system, the exhibition serves to move guests away from the busy surrounds of downtown Hong Kong to the bucolic Jeju Island, the place Kang — who lives and works between South Korea and France — nonetheless paints.

“In our minds, nature is grass and timber and flowers,” Kang mentioned, when requested about her relationship along with her environment. “However nature is the whole lot. Nature is individuals, it is a metropolis, it is historical past … Nature is a bridge to permit dialogue between all issues.”

Myonghi Kang” is on at Villepin, Hong Kong, till Oct. 24, 2021.

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