Life behind closed doors

Villepin’s previous two carefully curated exhibitions have been highly praised, so expectations were high for its next one.

And it has delivered. Myonghi Kang: Origins is an immersive experience – a feast not just for the eyes, but for the ears as well.

The show starts with the sounds of applause before moving on to a meditative silence, providing the perfect environment to understand the South Korean artist’s take on life.

Upon entering the gallery, you are greeted with a concrete wall and a 240-year-old wooden door sourced from Shanxi Province in China on the left, suggesting a mysterious world behind.

Once you push open the creaking door, walk through a dark corridor. Natural light shines through hanji paper windows on one side, reflecting on the only watercolor in the exhibition.

Kang’s style is immediately apparent in the bird’s eye view of Pok Fu Lam hanging above the porch arch – a mix of the abstract and the figurative in praise of the natural world.

The entire canvas is filled with dense and large-scale color patches which are suprisingly soothing.

Moving on, you will notice that the gallery space has been transformed to look like Kang’s villa on Jeju Island, where she lives and works.

Noyee, the largest work in the exhibition, measuring nearly three meters tall and 3.5 meters wide, takes pride of place in the ground floor foyer. Gallery cofounder Arthur de Villepin said the painting is inspired by what the artist saw as floating on the South China Sea, leaving only the head above the water, symbolizing the ups and downs of life.

While people tend to look down when floating, the painter sees the clouds and the sea glowing with sunlight.

The gorgeous scenes are transformed into lines and color patches, connecting together in the paintings and interpreted as the vision of life.

“It’s a painting about the choices she made for her life,” De Villepin said.

Born in 1947, three years before the Korean War, the artist grew up in the middle of the war, surrounded by unimaginable cruelty.

“She told me that when she was younger, she kept looking at water, stones and trees and was always wondering why the water was cold, why the stone was so hard,” De Villepin said.

“These questions actually represent the choices she made. She decided to not look at the war, but look at nature and life.”

In the gallery space, the stone from South Korea or 120-year-old wooden columns from Japan strive to create a sense of zen and tranquility, accompanied by the sound of ocean waves recorded at Jeju Island and random chirping of birds playing in the background.

Across the wall from Noyee is La Maison de Opticien, which offers a view from the window in the artist’s studio in France. Kang depicts an imaginary scene of abandoned markets coming back to life – strokes of white swirl into the blue sky, mottled grass and green moss complement each other, with dappled flowers giving a lively touch.

From some angles, the shimmering sunlight can even be seen – the result of mixing pearl powder into the oil paint.

De Villepin sees this painting as a reflection of the exhibition’s theme, as optometrists help people see better and clearer life scenes.

“It’s a metaphor, of course, but what we choose to focus on, how we choose to see the world when we’re in a difficult time, like Covid, is important and is what we want to convey through this exhibition,” he said.

Reservation is required. Myonghi Kang: Origins will run until October.

(This article was published at The Standard on July 30, 2021: Weekend Glitz: Life behind closed doors )

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