Two Korean Artists Explore Color, Mood, and Material at JanKossen Contemporary

Working across figurative and abstract styles, Korean artists Keun Woo Lee and Park Byung-Hoon explore the expressive qualities of paint. In “Asian Reflections,” a new show at JanKossen Contemporary in New York, the two artists use paint as a vehicle to convey moods and states of being, each using different techniques to create sensuous material surfaces.

While Keun Woo Lee is the more representative painter of the two, many of her works veer close to becoming purely abstract compositions, maintaining only the slightest connection to a real-world scene. For her “Wave” series, the artist turned to an unusual base: porcelain, sourced from Jingdezhen, China’s “porcelain capital.” The surfaces, which the artist paints before firing in a kiln, combine polished hardness with an airy painterly touch. Like the waves of the work’s title, the compositions undulate between geographic spaces, from skies to forests to oceans.

JanKossen also includes several works from Lee’s “Forest” series, which fall more in line with traditional representation. Painted in monochrome blacks and blues on a white canvas, these works turn energetic dashes of lines into tender scenes of overlapping flowers and branches.

Lee’s landscapes find echoes in the built-up surfaces of Park Byung-Hoon’s abstract works. Like Lee, Byung-Hoon enjoys painting on out-of-the-ordinary surfaces; for his works in “Asian Reflections,” Byung-Hoon has applied acrylic on top of sheets of glass. Many of Byung-Hoon’s works invoke masters of the 20th century, with the double-rectangle structure of a works like Transferences GRANDE JAUNES (2015) recalling Mark Rothko’s abstractions. His usage of surface, meanwhile, picks up on the experimentations of Helen Frankenthaler, who created paintings by patiently staining raw canvases.

By using glass, Byung-Hoon is able to play with contrasting opacities. In Transferences GRANDE BLEU (2015), for instance, Byung-Hoon combines a dense blue rectangle in the top part of the painting with a semi-transparent patch of thinly applied paint in the bottom. The transparent section looks as though Byung-Hoon has scraped away layers of paint. The process leaves the viewer with a powerful sense that something has been left behind—an idea of remnants and traces that resonates strongly with Lee’s glazed surfaces.


—Andrew Wagner


Asian Reflections” is on view at JanKossen Contemporary, New York, Feb. 18–Mar. 26, 2016.

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