“All that I work with is black and white. I think the harmony of these two is the essence of Korean ink paintings,” says noted South Korean artist Kim Ho-suk, whose works are marked by huge blank spaces and minimal explanation. “Bigger the blank spaces, bigger the meanings. Blank spaces are full of energy from the universe,” says the 60-year-old artist.
His 83 paintings that dot the walls as part of the exhibition “Hiding Inside the Light” encompass the last four decades of Ho-suk’s practice. So there are key works from his series on portraits, landscapes, animal figures and everyday scenes, offering an intimate understanding of the social, cultural and political aspects of Korean life.
The works represent seemingly mundane things but are loaded with layers of meanings. So while on the canvases, one can see flies, bees, fish, men at work or two people in a warm hug, these are mere motifs used to convey deeper meanings. The works are divided into thematic sections. For instance, paintings like A Wrong Choice for a Right Choice, Life Worth No More Than That of a Fly and The Grass Roots show powerlessness of human beings. Through this section, Ho-suk says he wants to “harp” on the innumerable cruel acts committed in the country’s political history which people don’t even want to talk about.
As a foil to this dark section, another set of works features some of those who have wielded absolute power in the country’s political history. There is also a section devoted to lampoons from political comedies. Taken as a whole, Ho-suk’s paintings document the trials and tribulations of Korean people as the country passed through difficult times during the Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.
The exhibition is part of a cultural exchange programme between India and South Korea and has been put together as a collaborative effort by Delhi’s National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) and the Korean Cultural Centre India. For Ho-suk, it’s not the first time his works are being showcased in India. Four of his paintings were introduced in India through an exhibition at the National Museum in November 2015, and also during the India Art Fair in January 2016. But he says he is honoured to hold a solo exhibition in India, the country that is “the origin of religion, spirituality, the Ganges river, spices, harmony of variance, kindness, greatness, mystery and curry”. And plans to return with more. The exhibition is on display at NGMA, Sher Shah Road, till June 25