English | Korean

A Landscape of This World

Mijung Kim / Curator, ARKO Art Center

When the artist, Gyungsu An, showed me a picture of Ma-seok Furniture Complex, I was quite surprised by the barren landscape. People should have lived there, but it was a dry place where the smell of life could not be found, and I only saw containers and old buildings from that picture. However, the impression of ‘being barren’ did not just come from objects appearing in the landscape, such as containers and buildings. In other words, the atmosphere is not created because of the elements of the landscape. The impression of the landscape begins with the invisible parts of the painting. Gyungsu An seems to be well aware of this. Therefore, he divides and analyzes the landscape to express the things he has seen as well as everything that composes a scene. In fact, his painting has already been discussed with important keywords such as ruins, vacant land, membrane, movement, and boundary, but his attitude toward the landscape must be examined first before analyzing those keywords.
He experiences, perceives, and establishes relationships with the spaces around him. Those spaces exist on the outskirts rather than the center of the city/life, and might be crowded buildings familiar to us, or could be an abandoned place forever. However, instead of defining the space with the logic of redevelopment or having a critical or sentimental attitude, he focuses on the method to present the ambiguous spaces he perceives. To understand the landscape, he observes the surroundings for a long time and then accumulates the result of the senses in several layers on the canvas. Because of those layers, the landscapes in his paintings are unfamiliar even though they are spaces that exist around us. His work, which depicts landscapes that exist but do not exist, even looks like a landscape from another world as it cannot be defined.
Texture of a Space
Gyungsu An resolves the question of ‘landscape as a boundary’ through ‘membrane’. Here, the biological term, ‘membrane’ refers to his work that connects and relates to spaces, rather than a single meaning/form of covering the surface. For this reason, objects on the border line, such as empty spaces among bustling cities, construction sites, watchtowers, and old pillars that might exist there, become the center of the screen. The titles refer to the situation, object, and landscape straightforwardly.
However, some of landscapes are not grasped by their titles. Looking at (2016), where the building is covered by a skinny yet dense forest of trees, I asked him why the title of the work is supermarket. He calmly replied that it was because the building was a supermarket. The moment I heard the answer, which would have been obvious to him, multi-layered membranes existing inside and outside of painting began to be recognized. First, because of the single membrane of the bare tree forest in the painting, the giant supermarket loses the name of the supermarket and the daily life and time it symbolizes, and the flat front of the building and the branches full of lines give a flatness to the entire landscape. In addition, by covering the object, the audience is separated from the landscape, and this sense of separation restricts people to sympathize with the landscape unconsciously and limits the act of creating a narrative, and makes focusing on the objects and layers appearing on the surface. In this way, the membrane works both inside and outside the painting and makes people immersed in the landscape.
In addition to , (2016), and (2016), the common characteristic in his works is that the flatness is emphasized, not the depth of space, despite the delicate strokes and precise description. Instead of showing the depth, he accumulates his own perspective of the space he has experienced as he paints on the screen. If you look closely at , you will find numerous textures covering the surface, such as red brush marks appeared through tangled tree branches and white dots made by scattering paint. These textures exist in the painting as a membrane, and through this, the landscape acquires a unique texture.
So-called texture in painting, it will be limited to the material things piled on the surface of the canvas by paint, and the visual texture that comes from the unique quality of the objects (container box, tent, etc.) in the work. However, in his paintings, these elements are intertwined on the screen to create the texture of the landscape ‘itself’. (2017), which depicts the Ma-seok Furniture Complex, may be seen as a landscape painting that is just well drawn in detail or well-expressed with the dry and dark atmosphere unique to the place. However, upon closer inspection, the container boxes, blinds, and wires that fill the landscape seem to be shaking. This expression created by brush strokes, other more brush strokes upon it once again, lines and traces of paint on top of them can also be found in his other works. These layers covering the screen are not for visual representation, nor are they a specific interpretation or unnecessary distortion of space. However, it is a record and a layer of time that he tried to reproduce what he saw as much as possible and as close as possible. After all, the texture of the landscape in his works is not the result of a momentary impression, but rather the result of persistent observation through interaction with the landscape.
Landscape That Is ‘Not the Same’
Having a relationship with the landscape and examining the membrane of the place, for him, this act, taking such a long time, is the starting point of his work. He recognizes that the boundaries of space change over time, and creates a gap between him and his work. Through the series of (2017) and (2015), he places his landscape painting in the original landscape. Since the boundary between the work and the landscape is matched well, there is little awkwardness just by looking at the connection between the two landscapes. The work standing without a support does not last long and soon falls down. This scene is presented by video and photos.
(2015), one of the series of , is a work that drawn with an empty space near the residency in Germany where he stayed. The vivid green of the grass and the clear overlapping of dynamic lines and strokes of this work are placed on a real landscape, and the two landscapes are connected by the similarity of the scene. Conversely, (2017) which depicts a curtain of a motel to hide the entrance and (2017) do not match the boundaries or lines of the existing landscape, because the wind constantly shakes the objects. This sense of difference does not occur due to the differences between medium of canvas and actual space, but due to the juxtaposition of ‘dissimilar’ scenes.
In this way, the process that the model(according to him) and the painting become a landscape that is ‘not the same’ is the process of ‘shaking’ the space as he defines. However, the moment when the two objects are more shaken than when the two landscapes are juxtaposed is when the work falls over and the entire landscape appears. As the work collapsed and the actual landscape took its place, the scene covered/opened by the work might look somewhat different from the scene drawn in the painting as time has been passed. For that reason, the scene that the painting falls down draws attention to the instability of the space and makes the place unfamiliar.
He seems to be constantly thinking about how to show the relationship between painting and landscape. In his solo exhibition 《Membrane》 in 2016, he changed the method of installing the work. A wall was installed behind the work, and the audiences discovered another layer of landscape hidden behind the membrane(work). This installation method to recognize the landscape and the hidden layers of the scene shows that his consistent attitude of the landscape takes an important role in his work.
The landscape itself becomes an object of contemplation without any additional explanation or language. Therefore, many artists have painted landscapes, and the expression method has constantly changed. However, for Gyungsu An, the way of accepting the landscape is much more important than the way of expressing it. I was curious about what he is currently facing with, who has been painting landscapes for quite a long time. The questions about the way and attitude of approaching landscapes are still valid for him, and the persistent examination of them precedes his act of painting.
Whether it is landscapes or objects, he will continue to draw the existence on the boundary around him. He will constantly discover unfamiliar scenes. Therefore, even if he draws only what he sees, this world will be always unfamiliar. I have always been curious about the role of painting, but Gyungsu An’s paintings may serve as a membrane connecting this world and the other world beyond it.