Lehmann Maupin presents a focused presentation of Kim Taek Sang’s work in the gallery’s Palm Beach location, in conjunction with a solo presentation of Helen Pashgian’s work. In recent years, Kim Taek Sang has gained recognition for his extensive exploration of color and its relation to nature, and for developing a unique process of painting, which challenges the traditional notion of two-dimensional painting.
Kim Taek Sang’s near-monochromatic paintings are devoid of forms, descriptions, or narratives. They consist of color fields with varying degrees of gradation that fill the plane surface. Across his post-Dansaekhwa practice, Kim mainly engages with water, light, and time—the by-chance elements that come from nature. Kim began his series, Breathing Light, after he visited the Yellowstone Caldera and was inspired by its reflection of water in the early 1990s. In order to embody a canvas that seemingly holds water, Kim dissolves acrylic color agents into the water, pours the solution inside a frame, and lets the diluted paint particles gravitate to the canvas that is submerged in water. He waits for the natural elements to work for themselves, opening up all the possibilities, and then drains clear water floating on the surface. As a result of this repeated practice of water-dipping and drying the canvas, the artist achieves distinctive visuality of “breathing light,” the layers of transparent colors that shine through the light.
This way, Kim’s painting refuses to stay within or with the preexisting paradigm of Western contemporary painting and calls for a new vocabulary: Dàamhwa (淡畵) or Dàam Painting. Dàam (淡) is a Chinese character formed out of the phonetic element that means ‘water’ and the pictorial element that means ‘flame.’ We can imagine a state where a beautifully burning flame turns into ashes, which then are submerged in water. Considering that the inks are made of carbon, Dàam is a visual device to conceive color from distilled water, rid of any impurities. For Kim, water is a medium of art that is equivalent to color. Water, thus, is an integral component of his painting that truly demonstrates the operation of Dàam, how light once drenched in water emerges out of it. Through color, Kim materializes the way light exists in nature, transposing nature with the real, namely painting. The material experience of Kim’s painting compels the canvas surface to feel like an atmospheric light, as well as defamiliarizing the space and time in which these works are presented.
About the Artist
Kim received a B.F.A. from Chung-Ang University in 1985 and a M.F.A. from Hongik University in 1987. Solo exhibitions of his works have been organized at Leeahn Gallery, Daegu, South Korea (2021, 2019); Gallery Aso, Daegu, South Korea (2021, 2018, 2017, 2010); Taguchi Fine Art, Tokyo, Japan (2018, 2016, 2014, 2010, 2008, 2006); Gallery Date, Busan, South Korea (2013); Gallery Soso, Paju, South Korea (2009); Cais Gallery, Seoul, South Korea (2004, 2001); Bibi Space, Daejeon, South Korea (2004); Linda Fairchild Contemporary Art, San Francisco, CA (2003); Koreart Gallery, Busan, South Korea (2002); Ellen Kim Murphy Gallery, Seoul, South Korea (2000); Gallery Sagan, Seoul, South Korea (2000); Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea (1999); Gallery Woong, Seoul, South Korea (1996, 1995); Total Museum of Art, Jangheung, South Korea (1994); and Hakchon Gallery, Cheongju, South Korea (1993).
Select group exhibitions featuring his work include Eloquence of The Visual, Gallery Woong, Seoul, South Korea (2022); Layer: Tranquility & Depth, Art Project CO, Seoul, South Korea (2021); Art and Furniture, Shinsegae Gallery, Daegu, South Korea (2021); Empty Fullness: Materiality and Spirituality in Contemporary Korean Art, Park Ryu Sook Gallery, Seoul, South Korea (2020); Different Yet Similar, Similar Yet Different: The Vietnam-Korea Contemporary Art, Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum and Korean Culture Center in Vietnam, Hanoi, Vietnam (2019); Damsaekmulsung, Gallery Woong, Seoul, South Korea (2019); 5th Neo Moroism, Tsinghua University Visual Art Center, Beijing, China (2018); The Post Dansaekhwa of Korea, Leeahn Gallery, Daegu, South Korea (2018); Buried Lines – 2 Person Show (with Yun Hyong-Keun), Wellside Gallery, Seoul, South Korea (2017); 4th Neo Moroism, Tokyo Gallery + Beijing Tokyo Art Projects, Beijing, China (2016); Die Farbe Hat Mich, Colour 21, Cologne, Germany (2015); Into the Light, Taguchi Fine Art and Art SoHyang, Busan, South Korea (2014); Empty Fullness: Materiality and Spirituality in Contemporary Korean Art, Korean Cultural Center, Beijing, China; SPSI Art Museum, Shanghai, China; Koreanisches Kulturzentrum, Berlin, Germany; Museum Nasional, Jakarta, Indonesia; Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina; and World Trade Center, São Paulo, Brazil (2014); Dàam-hua. Reconfiguring Contemporary Art: From a Korean Perspective, ICA Singapore, Singapore (2013); Dansaekhwa: Korean Monochrome Painting, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, South Korea (2012); Stillness into Color – Inframince of Moonlight, Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Chiba, Japan (2009); Gwangju Design Biennale 2009 – The Clue, Gwangju Museum of Art, Gwangju, South Korea (2009); Contemporary Korean Art – To Have or To Be, Farmleigh Gallery, Dublin, Ireland; Palácio das Galveias, Lisbon, Portugal; Hong Kong Visual Arts Center, Hong Kong (2008); Trace of Minimum, Spacemom Museum of Art, Cheongju, South Korea (2007); Simply Beautiful: Breath of Nature in Contemporary Korean Art, Centre Pasquart, Biel, Switzerland (2006); Busan Biennale 2006 – Haeundae Project, Busan, South Korea (2006); Monochrome Paintings of Korea: Past & Present, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea (2004); Understanding of Abstract Painting, Sungkok Museum, Seoul, South Korea (2002); Korean Art 2001, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, South Korea (2001); and Revival of the Art – 21c Korean Painting Leading Artists Exhibition, Sungkok Museum, Seoul, South Korea (1999).
Kim’s work is in many public and private collections, including National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, South Korea; Leeum Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea; Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea; Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea; Cheongju Museum of Art, Cheongju, South Korea; Suwon iPARK Museum of Art, Suwon, South Korea; Yokogawa Electric, Tokyo, Japan; Walkerhill Hotel, Seoul, South Korea; and Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong. From 1991 to 2020, the artist was a professor of visual art at Cheongju University, Cheongju, South Korea.