Kim Tschang-Yeul (b. 1929) is one of the most prolific and influential artist in Post War Korean art history. His formative years were spent learning calligraphy from his grandfather and painting from the Master Lee Quede. A graduate of Seoul National University, Park led the Korean Art Informel movement with his colleagues Park Seobo and Chung Chang Sup. Kim moved to NY in the late 60s to study at the Art Students League of New York where he was exposed to and influenced by the Pop Art movement before eventually settling in Paris after participating in the Avant-Garde Festival with help from Nam June Paik.
Initial experimentations with geometric liquid abstract forms transformed into his trademark trompe l’oeil water drops which he has pursued for over the past fifty years. The water drop motif straddles the ambiguous space between the real and the abstract. While the artist has been recently quoted that “the meaning is meaningless” behind the water drop, the nature of the water drop of having substance but then becoming transparent is a return to emptiness or a return to peace. This notion of meditation and healing has been a recurrent theme in the interpretation of Kim’s works. The constant transient state of water and the monochrome stains it creates is also in a state of balance between wet and dry and light and dark in a way that soothes emotional trauma that the artist himself and Korean society had endured during its recent political history marked by colonization, war and displacement. The use of Chinese characters in his work whether explicitly or abstractly can also be an homage to this tradition and family adding to the amount spiritual nature of his works. Whether the subject is one drop or many or juxtaposed with water stains, the interpretation and dialogue that the viewer may have with the work provides immense opportunities for contemplation. In this way, the water drop is an illusion that stimulates the canvas and is not a depiction of the actual thing but an indication to an idea.
Turning his attention to the international art world, he submitted his work to the 2nd Paris Biennale in 1961 and the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1965. In 1969, he participated in the Avant-Garde Festival in Paris. He made an actual debut as a painter in Europe during the presentation of his works “Event of Night” in the Salon de Mai in 1972. Ever since, he has continued to present works featuring water drops. In 2004, Kim held a retrospective on his water drop paintings over the past 30 years at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume.
Kim’s works have been shown at major retrospectives at the Gwangju Museum of Art, Taiwan National Museum of Fine Art, Busan Museum of Art, National Art Museum of China and the Jeu de Puame National Gallery. The publicly based Kim Tshang-Yeul Museum, created in honor of the artist, opened on the islane of Jeju, Korea in 2016.