Staying in the Mindscape

Jul 9, 2015 1:41AM

Kyungmin NAM Solo Exhibition 

Nov. 7th - Dec. 19th 2014

Savina Museum of Contemporary Art

Supported by Arts Council Korea (ARKO)

                      Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism,

                      Korea Arts Management Service   

Written by Curatorial Team, Savina Museum 

Korean-English Translation is supported by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Korea Arts Management Service.

Translated by Ewha Research Institute for Translation Studies

Kyungmin NAM’s paintings require time for the viewer to interpret the works, just as works of epic literature must be watched, read and pondered over. This work signifies the exposure of her artistic imagination before our eyes, through which Nam and the renowned Joseon-era artist Danwon, two painters living in two different points in time and space, are able to enjoy each other’s company in one space and communicate with each other beyond time, as opposed to merely containing the artist’s one-way observation of Danwon through the perspective of a painter.

Kim Mi-jin (Professor at Hongik University Graduate School of Fine Arts, Planning & Critique)   

Savina Museum presents an exhibition of works by Kyungmin NAM, with the title of Staying in the Mindscape, as its final event in 2014. As her first exhibition in four years since 2010, Nam seeks new changes to expand the spectrum of her work, which has reconstructed the studios of renowned painters using her unique imagination, as she aims to transition from distinguished Western painters to those of the Joseon Dynasty.


In her earlier works, Nam experimented with the ateliers of great painters in Western art history, including Matisse, Hockney, and Cezanne, using meticulous study based on various materials and her capacity for imagination. Her new paintings to be shown at this exhibition reveal Nam’s deep examination into the kings and artists of the Joseon Dynasty through the portrayal of notable artists of the era, such as Jeong Seon, Kim Hong-do, and Shin Yun-bok. The 15 new works on display also contain Nam’s philosophy as an artist, based on the knowledge acquired from the architectural, spatial, and historical settings of the Joseon Dynasty, as well as uniquely Korean sentiments and philosophies.


The title Staying in the Mindscape refers to Nam’s efforts to share the thoughts and lives of Joseon-era artists in their own space, which transcends time.

1st floor

Shin Yunbok’s Atelier - Thinking of the Artist, Shin Yunbok, 2012, Oil on linen, 162x260.6cm  

As discernible by the visibility of Portrait of a Beauty in the mirror, this work depicts the studio of Shin Yun-bok. For Nam, the mirrors, doors, and windows serve as a gateway into the ideal world. Therefore, the woman in Portrait of a Beauty, who appears as if she is about to walk out of the mirror, depicts the vision of the woman as seen through the mirror by Shin. Moreover, the landscapes of the Joseon Dynasty and the Baroque period as seen through the windows and doors can be interpreted as Nam’s ideal world.    

Looking at Buyongjeong from Gyujanggak2014, Oil on linen, 200x450cm

Fascinated with King Jeongjo, who pioneered Joseon’s cultural renaissance, artist Nam reproduces the scenery of Kyujanggak in her painting by imagining the realization of the king’s dream to effect cultural and political reforms through the Royal Library. King Jeongjo’s presence is illustrated through elements of Kyujanggak, such as Uigwe (Royal Protocols), Gyujangchongmok (general catalog of the Royal Library), Jeongjo’s favorite painting genre chaekgado, and the mirror which shows Kyujanggak as painted by his favorite artist Danwon Kim Hong-do. Detailed descriptions of the objects featured in this work can be found on the iPad placed on the first floor.

Exploring Buyongjeong, 2014, Oil on linen, 130.3x194cm   

Boasting the most beautiful back garden among the five royal palaces in Korea, Changdeokgung is one of the painter’s favorite locations. Found at Changdeokgung, Buyongjeong is where Jeongjo enjoyed fishing with courtiers, and princes trained themselves to be a king worthy of inheriting the spirit of former kings. Nam is said to have decided to paint the pavilion upon first seeing it in a newspaper, as she felt the spirit and energy of the ancestors from the light shining on its roof tiles. 

2nd floor

 An Invitation to N - Walking in Kim Hongdo’s Atelier, 2014, Oil on linen, 200x450cm  

Inspired by Gunseondo of Danwon Kim Hong-do, Nam learned more about the artist and became more attracted by his talents in various fields such as music and poetry, which drove her to paint this work. She divides Kim’s Gunseondo (”Taoist Immortals”) into three parts in her painting, and adds objects such as musical instruments and painting instruments that appear to have been frequently used by Kim, thus giving the impression of Kim’s lingering presence. By contrast, disparate objects such as a skull, wings, Western paintbrushes, and a coffee pot symbolize Nam, indicating that the two painters share the studio together and communicate with each other. Detailed descriptions of the objects can be found on the iPad placed on the second floor.

Kyunghungak - Contemplating the Scenery, 2013, Oil on linen, 162x260.6cm

The setting for this piece is Kyeonghungak, which served as the residential palace for the king and queen. Adorning the front, the painting Gosa Inmulhwa depicts “Three Men Questioning Time,” the ancient story of three Taoist hermits who each boast of their longevity as they look out towards the ocean, as testament to the desire for long lives of the king and queen. Nam’s brushes on the round table below it suggests that the pine trees outside the door do not reflect reality, but are instead products of her imagination.


Shin Saimdang’s Atelier, 2011, Oil on linen, 112x162cm

As suggested by the placement of Eggplants and a Long-Headed Grasshopper on the floor, this work depicts the studio of Shin Saimdang, mother of the Joseon-era Confucian scholar Yulgok and a renowned artist in her own right. The canvas in the mirror leads the viewer to imagine Nam as she draws the landscape while sitting across from Shin Saimdang. In addition, the Baroque landscape, the wings, the phonograph, and Paul Cezanne’s painting demonstrate Nam’s propensity to create a composition in a surrealist fashion that transcends time and space. 

Chaekgado - An Illusion about the Sublime,  2014, Oil on linen, 200x450cm  

Chaekgado, a painting of book-related furniture, displays a combination of all eastern and western objects considered by the painter to be lofty, borrowing the style of works loved by King Jeongjo. For example, viewers may find two objects in the painting including western masterpieces such as Jan Vermeer’s View of Delft, Claude Monet’s Garden at Argenteuil, as well as artifacts of ancient Korea, including a crown and plate from the ancient kingdom of Gaya. Nam’s presence is further revealed through other objects with symbolic significance for the artist, like the phonograph, globe, and skull. Detailed descriptions for the objects can be found on the iPad placed on the underground floor. 

Looking at Pine Trees from Gyumjae Jeong Sun’s Library, 2012, Oil on linen, 130.3x162cm  

Seven years ago, Jeong Seon’s folk painting (in which Jeong Seon sits on a narrow wooden porch appreciating flowers in a garden) served to inspire Nam to expand her atelier series to include thematic objects unique to Korean traditional culture. The portrait of a pine tree over the desk leads viewers to imagine the scene of Jeong Seon painting while watching a pine tree in the yard, while the canvas in the mirror stand hints at the coexistence of Nam, who is painting the atelier of Jeong Seon. The composition represents the communication and communion between Nam and the master artist of the past within the same space, and Jeong Seon’s studio features different moods from those of Hwawon Kim Hong-do, and instead reflects plain, lofty images that Nam sensed from Gyeomjae Jeong Seon.