brilliant 30: Kanghoon Kang
Bringing to Light the Hidden Personas of Individual Subjects
Kanghoon Kang: a Journey towards Real Realism
Artist Kanghoon Kang employs real photorealism as a means to depict relationships. Beyond realistic paintings which merely emulate hyper-realistic portraits, Kang’s work brings to light the hidden personas of individual subjects. Kang considers photography as a “factual distortion” due to the partial reproduction of its subjects in fragmented frames. In light of this, Kang does not eliminate emotion and subjectivity in his hyper-realistic technique. Kang’s realism, then, can be referred to as subjective realism.
For Kanghoon Kang, hyperrealism is not merely a technique in his paintings. The photographic images are the mise-en-scene for his paintings. The products of extensive physical labor, Kang’s paintings articulate the issues surrounding images and products generated by modern high technology.
Rather than simply reproducing social reality, Kang seeks the accumulated product of what is ‘true’ and ‘real’ in the form of existential realism. Existentialism is the awareness of one’s environment and the ability to confront real-life issues at hand. Kang asserts that his creative practice and resulting artworks are a force for social change. Rather than a mere representation of his artistic mindscape, his work stipulates the importance of the artist’s external relationships and interactions with the world. Individuals have unique appearances, but each person shares a common sentiment with others; likewise, Kang’s self-portrait in the Modern Boy series draws parallels with the individual portraits of individuals in our society.
Q. Please describe your representative body of work, the Modern Boy series.
A. This is my first project as an artist. The series juxtaposes real identity-related issues rampant in our modern society and the unrealistic elements of hyper-realistic techniques and the ‘Utopian direction’ in efforts to seek out the ‘real’ irony of our current circumstances. Likewise, Modern Collage stems from the Modern Boy series in my endeavors to figure out a solution to the limitations of photography and painting. Hence, my work is a critical inquiry into the parameters of what we generally define as realism. Rather than seeking a singular definition, my method for finding a solution is to continue to ask questions and pursue dialogue.
The act of translating facial expression with brushstrokes. The ability to illustrate this subject beyond mere emulation -Kanghoon Kang-
Q. Please elaborate on your thoughts about realism.
A. As I mentioned in my artist note, realism encompasses a larger part of our lives. I am not interested in seeking hyperrealism, but rather in finding the fundamental elements of what makes realism truly real. To answer this question, I must be aware that realism is the ontology of time and space in relation to my current existence. I have always been interested in youth because it is a linear, cumulative and non-reversible stage. Hence, my paintings are infused with the exploration of my model’s inner world and the manifestation of an individual’s life journey.
Q. People recognize you as a hyperrealist portrait artist. Is there a particular reason why you choose to work with portraits as your main subject matter?
A. Contrary to the minute details in my work, my paintings are in fact not an exact replica of my models. They are unique in their characteristics, yet share something in common; this very nature of realism is what I wished to bring out with my series of work. While most creatures have a predictable facial expression, the human face is versatile, with facial structures unique to the species of mankind. This is why I chose the human face as my subject matter.
Q. Is there a particular reason why your models wear certain accessories in your paintings?
A. Sleeveless T-shirts and ties are some common clothes I use for the adults in order to distinguish the identity of youth and adulthood. On the other hand, accessories like glasses, pipes and hats are props symbolizing narratives that are unique to individuals. Yet despite these various appearances, the facial expressions exude the inner mindscape and ego of the models. I attempt to create rich stories with these expressions as my main subject matter.
Q. What are your inspirations?
A. The birth of my daughter and watching her grow. Words do not do justice to the reality of this life-changing experience. I have always reflected constantly on the meaning of realism. Since the birth of my daughter, a particular set of behavioral patterns changed completely and I took on an entirely new outlook on life. This was a catalyst for re-evaluating the essence of ‘realism.’
Q. What makes your art brilliant?
A. The act of translating facial expression with brushstrokes. The ability to illustrate this subject beyond mere emulation; I think this is the power of the genre of painting and the reason why there is room for experiments and investigation of its endless possibilities.
Modern Collage-Milk Mustache. 2014. Oil on canvas. 73 x 73cm
Modern Collage-Milk Mustache. 2014. Oil on canvas. 73 x 73cm
Milk Mustache. 2014. Oil on canvas. 73 x 73cm
Smoke Player. 2014. Oil on canvas. 227 x 145cm
Perforated Dream. 2014. Oil on canvas. 194 x 130cm
Kanghoon Kang acquired his BFA in Painting and MFA in Art Education from Kyung Hee University. Upon graduation, Kang explored the intrinsic world of realistic portraiture between photography and painting. Kang has had multiple solo shows including <Kanghoon Kang Solo Exhibition: Modern Boy>(Park Ryu Sook Gallery, Seoul, Korea, 2009), <Modern Day Identity>(Park Ryu Sook Gallery, Seoul, Korea, 2012), <Kanghoon Kang Solo Exhibition: Modern Day Identity>(ART HK 12, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Hong Kong, 2012), <Kanghoon Kang Solo Exhibition: ART HK 13, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Hong Kong, 2013). Kang has also participated in multiple group exhibitions including <ArtForum Berlin>(Messe Berlin, Berlin, Germany, 2008), <Hyper Realism>(Seongnam Arts Center, Seongnam, Gyeonggi-do, Korea, 2009), <Korean Art Show>(82 Mercer St. Soho, New York City, New York, USA, 2011), <The Seoul Art Exhibition 2011>(Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea, 2011), <Tomorrow 2014>(Dongdaemun Design Plaza-Design Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2014) to name a few.