brilliant 30: Chaewook Lim
Incorporating Hanji to Recreate Contemporary Jin-Gyeong Sansu
Chaewook Lim, Contemporary Jin-Gyeong Sansu
(realism in landscape painting - 眞景山水) on the Balance of Contradiction
Artist Chaewook Lim has walked a path quite unlike most other artists who graduate from art college and begin their creative work. During his undergraduate studies, Lim entered and won an open competition where he was awarded a Ministerial Prize. He has also been a venture entrepreneur for more than a dozen years. It has not been very long since Lim left the office and returned to the studio, but his life and experiences beyond the studio walls have deeply enriched the his current work. Everything he encounters and his perception of reality lay the foundations for this artist's unique contemporary interpretation of Jin-Gyeong Sansu photography. In that capacity, it is worth mentioning that his earliest photographic works were of the Solseom Island of Wolcheon, the site of a serious environmental degradation problem.
Painting does not have many limitations when selecting a color palette; photography is limited by the colors that are already present in the subject. Lim takes an experimental approach to his photography, capturing frames rich with a wide range of colors. Once the artist turned his lens to the mountains, colors were removed and the ridgelines were highlighted. And when he chose to print on Korean traditional mulberry paper called "hanji," rather than the standard photographic paper, his <Snow Mountains> series took on a natural look like that of a traditional Indian-ink painting. Recently, Chaewook Lim has been working with "relief photography." Combined with the effects of creases in the hanji material, the artist visually expresses diverse emotions and energies that exist between painting and photography, the second and third dimensions, the traditional and what is contemporary, reality and imagination. As such, the artist's works impart a particular charm found in a certain balance of contradictions, presenting the extant mountain to the viewer and making it a reality unfolding before their eyes.
Q. Your photographic works at first appear to be in the style of traditional Indian-ink painting. The images look like a contemporary photographic version of Jin-Gyeong Sansu, created without any brushstrokes. What special methods do you use to achieve this effect?
A. During my coursework for oriental painting, I had some experience with Indian-ink painting, and I wanted to try and reproduce that texture through photography. But with standard photography materials, I was unable to convey the texture and impression of Indian-ink paintings. So I sat down with a hanji manufacturer and collaborated on a special hanji most suitable for my work, and that is the material I am working with now. The mountain contours in my works are captured like the brush strokes in Indian-ink paintings, with the beauty of negative space respected. Printing the image on the specially produced hanji results in what appears to be Indian-ink permeating the paper, and the natural grain typical to hanji allows for soft, gradient expressions.
Scrunching up a finely printed photograph might be undermining the inherent value of the photograph itself, but on the other hand, the action makes it possible to change one's way of thinking, and overcome artistic limitation. -Chaewook Lim-
Q. What places do you look to photograph? Any particular locations or places in mind?
A. From 2011 onwards, my works were mostly from the Baekdudaegan Mountain Range. There were different mountains that I sought out, but I mostly worked at Inwangsan Mountain. Inwangsan Mountain was where the Korean painter Jung Sun (1676-1759) redefined traditional Korean Sansu-painting through his "Jing-Gyeong Sansu" painting. I found it fitting to go back to the place of origin, looking for answers on how to present Inwangsan Mountain in a contemporary setting. More recently, I have been captivated by the hidden beauty of Seoraksan Mountain, and have been working to present a reinterpretation of one of Korea's most celebrated mountains.
Q. Once you choose a location, daily weather changes and other disadvantageous variables are sure to occur. How do you cope with, or plan around these external conditions?
A. Mountains, or nature in general, is one of those things we humans have the least amount of control over. So photography and other works are only possible with the mountain's blessing, and the weather is the most important factor. For me, it is not the clear weather, but rather the livid and vivid, dynamic movement in the sea of clouds, immediately after the downpour of rain or snow that works best.
Q. You work with a traditional theme using modern tools, and it appears to be through the traditional modes of expression. How would you define the significance of this working process?
A. The snowy winter mountains in Korea demonstrate the conditions of traditional Indian-ink painting very well; expressed in terms of lines. The snow provides negative space, while tree branches and the contours of the mountain take the linear form, expressed through ink-brush calligraphy. So in a sense, my works are like Jin-Gyeong Sansu paintings captured through photography.
Q. Last year, you began venturing into three-dimensional works in addition to your flatter works. Crumpling up photographs so painstakingly taken and printed is not common practice, both in terms of concept and method. What inspires you to create these new works?
A. It was one day in 2013. I was printing and reprinting an image because of a recurring error. Frustrated, I crumpled up the ruined prints and threw them across the room. It was in that moment that the crumpled ball of printed material that I had thrown away met my eyes like a large boulder from a mountainside. It was that inspiration which led me over the wall of photography's planar limitations, and to discover new possibilities for painterliness. I took to three-dimensional work after that experience, crumpling up photos. I stumbled upon relief-photography in that way, and so continued the impromptu approach of crumpling and even abrading the printed image, through which I impart my emotions and energy, completing the work. Scrunching up a finely printed photograph might be undermining the inherent value of the photograph itself, but on the other hand, the action makes it possible to change one's way of thinking, and overcome artistic limitation. The sense of mass and fascinating juxtaposition of light and darkness achieved through crumpling the print, creates a reality of space and form, leading the viewer into a realm of further stretching of the imagination. Ultimately, my goal with my recent relief-photography works is to suggest an 'aesthetics of crumpling' somewhere between painting and photography, the second and third dimensions, the traditional and the contemporary, reality and imagination.
Q. What makes your art brilliant?
A. I would say “crumple.”
Seorak 3D 1407. 2014. Archival Pigment Print on Hanji. 150 x 98 x 15cm
Seorak 3D 1403. 2014. Archival Pigment Print on Hanji. 143 x 77 x 20cm
Bukhan 3D 1401. 2014. Archival Pigment Print on Hanji. 133 x 77 x 20cm
Seorak 3D 1421. 2014. Archival Pigment Print on Hanji. 150 x 98 x 15cm
Seorak 3D 1428. 2014. Archival Pigment Print on Hanji. 160 x 107cm
Chaewook Lim graduated from the Seoul National University with a B.F.A. from the Department of Oriental Painting, in the College of Fine Arts. With an interest in traditional Korean Indian-ink paintings, he has worked to rediscover the aesthetic value of Jin-Gyeong Sansu painting, combining the medium of photography with Korean hanji. Through the unlikely combination, Lim has presented a new concept for Sansu-paintings, manifesting both the reality and contemporary relevance i between flatness and three-dimensionality. Recognized for his achievement and contribution, he was recently awarded in the photography category of The Prudential Eye Awards for Asian artists. Since 2009, the artist has presented more than a dozen solo exhibitions including <Mind Spectrum>(Chung Art Gallery, Seoul, Korea, 2009 / Shin Hwa Gallery, Hong Kong, China, 2010 / Pyo Gallery Artspace, Seoul Korea, 2012), and <Snow Mountains>(Shin Hwa Gallery, Hong Kong, China, 2013), and <Inside Mountains>(Ara Art Center, Seoul, Korea, 2014). Lim has also participated in diverse exhibitions including <Korea Art Today 'Breathe'>(Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, China, 2011), and <Prudential Eye Awards: Supporting emerging Asian art>(Suntec City, Singapore, 2014>. Chaewook Lim is also a published author of <Wolcheon Solseom : Solseom, Gone with the Wind>(Art Blue, 2010).