In ‘Nam Kwan’s Abstract Painting 1955-1990’ Gallery Hyundai presents the artist’s major works beginning from 1955, the year he went to Paris, through to the end of his life.
Nam Kwan (1911–1990) was a brilliant artist in the Korean art scene who made his name as an abstract painter in Paris. He moved to the city because it was the center of the international art world at the time and secured himself an atelier in Montparnasse. He began working at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière where he started exploring abstract painting. Nam Kwan participated in the Internationale de l’ Art Plastique Contemporain organized by the Musée d’ Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1956 and then in 1958 became the first Korean artist to be invited to exhibit with the influential avant-garde artist group, Salon de Mai, who led the art scene in Paris at the time. He won first prize at the 1966 Biennale de Peinture in Menton besting all the masters including the likes of Pablo Picasso and Antoni Tàpies to name a few.
During his time in Paris in the fifties and sixties, Nam Kwan created works inspired by ancient relics. The paintings show bleak walls, dilapidated courtyards, and ruins of old castles and monuments. He delicately expressed corroded or worn out surfaces by using grey and purple tones. He also started using shapes that were reminiscent of ancient scripts and Chinese characters, and experimented with new composition techniques such as using paper cut-outs to guide where he should paint on the canvas. Living in Seoul in the seventies and eighties, the artist explored unique human characters and colors, creating his own abstract language. He painted iconic mask images with bright colors, often incorporating blues in stark contrast to the darker colors he used in Paris. He also utilized décollage, the opposite of collage, removing pieces attached to the canvas and applying paint where they were.
"My art is the accumulation of my lived experiences as well as my life itself,” said Nam Kwan. His exceptional passion led him to devote his whole life to art both in Paris and Seoul until he died in 1990. This exhibition celebrates his legacy and sheds new light on his distinctive artistic vision as a pioneer of Korean abstract art.