It was in the late 1980s when South Korean artist Myongi Kang began work on his painting “Le temps des camellias” (“The Time of Camellias”). While living in the 19th arrondissement of Paris at the time, she periodically revisited the then-vertical canvas to add strokes of color or floral motifs.
“I would go back to the painting with all these questions in my mind, and the memories from the trip,” she recalled in a phone interview, via a translator.
But the painting was never finished. Kang eventually abandoned her creation, and it wasn’t until she moved it to South Korea’s Jeju Island in 2007 that she felt inspired to revisit the artwork – and change its orientation to a traditional horizontal landscape. For.
“It was only when I brought the painting to Jeju in the spring that I had the courage to work again after 10 years,” she said. “I had a lot of camellias in my studio, and so I started bringing in all the elements that I saw around me.”
Myongi Kang’s “Le Temps des Camellias” was finally completed in 2018. Credit: Courtesy of Villepin
“I can’t really explain,” Kang said. “I thought this painting should be made that way. I relied on that moment—to know the right time for me to paint the individual parts until I was finished.”
“I would not dare to say that I paint time – that would be too arrogant – but time is In What do I paint,” she added later. “I let myself be the hand of time. I observe time, but try not to manipulate it.”
This impulsive approach is typical of Kang, whose calmly vivid art reveals his complex relationship with nature. Now in her mid-70s, she can spend years on a single piece, her often-gentle brushstrokes belie a process she describes as “very, very intense.”
“I just look at the paintings and realize they are not finished. And even sleeping can be difficult,” she explained. “They’re always moving and making progress, and sometimes I just don’t realize what they’re doing. Sometimes, I wish I could have a drink and forget about it , but it is not possible. I always need to try to solve the little things. Every day in front of me.”
Myonghi Kang’s “The Optician’s House”. Credit: Courtesy of Villepin
However, all of a sudden, the compulsion to sign – and thus finish – a painting would hit him “like a lightning bolt,” she said.
“It’s not something I plan for or know logically about. It’s spontaneous.”
‘Nature is everything’
While Kang’s absorbing paintings appear abstract at first, they are often grounded in the world around him. But although his works resemble landscapes, they never depict a specific scene, but are an amalgamation of sights, memories and sensations.
Kang, also known for writing poetry, said, “Every moment, when I wake up and start working, it is part of the painting.” “And memories – perhaps from 10 years ago – will also be integrated to see Camellia, for example.
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“What I picture is not a figurative way of expressing what I see. It is the accumulation of observations – for example, trying to capture the sky – and the capture of the ‘whole’ rather than actually a specific camellia or a certain rock.” Doing.”
Located across three floors in Hong Kong, Kang’s latest shows works from the past decade, including the aforementioned “Le Temps des Camellias.” Spending time with canvas helps bring the artist’s blurry subject—whether an orange blossom, a neighboring optician’s house or clouds rolling in a pale blue sky—in sharp focus.
The gallerist behind the show, Arthur de Villepin, believes that the beauty of a work is found in the small “details” seen in its company.
“You look at the different layers, and you see that, at times, the brushstrokes will be vivid and quite sharp and represent a certain part of their personality,” he said over the phone from the south of France. “Or sometimes the colors will be too bright. Then at other moments the colors fade, and the ability to live different lives at different moments… that’s what I found amazing.”
Kang’s work on display at the Villepin Gallery in Hong Kong. Credit: Courtesy of Villepin
Complete with natural sounds played from hidden speakers, the exhibition serves to transport visitors away from the busy surroundings of Hong Kong city to Jeju Island, where Kang – who lives and works between South Korea and France – is now Paints too.
“In our minds, nature is grass and trees and flowers,” said Kang, when asked about the relationship to his surroundings. “But nature is everything. Nature is people, it is a city, it is history… Nature is a bridge allowing dialogue between all things.”
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