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a blog of painting, abstraction, and contemporary art
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Intimate Gestures

Last week, I dropped by Sundaram Tagore Gallery to see the Ho Sook Kang exhibition. Her paintings are built up with teeny tiny gestures, marks or dabs of colour really, that when viewed as a whole capture and communicate a sense of movement and elemental power.

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundharam Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundharam Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

I wasn’t familiar with the artist before seeing the show, so when I got back to the computer I check out what the gallery had to say. Here’s an excerpt,

If abstract art is the consummate means of communicating what Kandinsky famously called “internal necessity,” then it is a matter of the quality of inward depth in abstraction. In American action painting it means enacting raw feeling, implying that the instincts in which it originates are uncontrollable, while in Kang’s Orientalist action painting it means refining feeling, so that it is brought under ego control and stabilized, and can be aesthetically contemplated, that is, incorporated into the conscious self and used to fertilize its growth and understanding. The goal of Kang’s Orientalist action painting is self-consciousness not self-expression–more particularly, the transformation of self-expression into self-consciousness. If American action painting is informed by avant-garde primitivism–the climactic statement of the “noble savagery” that Gauguin pursued–then Kang’s action painting is informed by the Oriental ideal of meditative calm, holding its own whatever emotional and social storms threaten it. {Read more…}

While the academic in me would argue with certain turns of phrase in this piece and the implications/assumptions of both action painting and the “Oriental ideal of meditative calm,” it did get me thinking about a couple of points of comparison. First, in American gestural painting we often find that the expressive gesture functions as metaphor for an individualistic or atomistic conception of the self. Kang’s paintings seem to point to a different conception of the self, one that is more holistic. In her work, the individual gestures function together as a whole to create a unified abstract image. Second, it got me thinking about the Confucian/Classical Chinese idea of the “Doctrine of the Mean” (chung-yung) and so I pulled out one of my books and Wing-Tsit Chang had this to say which I found interesting.

In the Analects chung-yung, often translated the “Mean,” den;otes moderation but here chung means what is central and yung means what is universal and harmonious. The former refers to human nature, the latter to its relation with the universe. Taken together, it means that there is harmony in human nature and that this harmony underlies our moral being and prevails throughout the univers. In short, man and Nature form a unity. {Read more…}

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2 comments

1 jimmy { 02.13.09 at 5:42 pm }

Nice wall paper

2 christine { 03.16.09 at 5:13 pm }

Beautiful artwork by Ho Sook Kang. Thanks for sharing it.
I do agree that Kang’s work allows the individual gestures to function together as a whole to create a unified abstract image.
Thanks again for a wonderful post!

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