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Dutch flower paintings get a contemporary update

July 19,2019
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From left, Kim Sung Yoon’s paintings “Assorted Flowers in the Celadon Vase in the Shape of Nike Basketball” (2019), “Flowers” (2018) after Edouard Manet and “Peonies in a Polli Jar” (2018) are part of the artist’s solo show at Gallery Hyundai in central Seoul running until July 28. [MOON SO-YOUNG, GALLERY HYUNDAI]
Those who enter the first floor of Gallery Hyundai in central Seoul might think they are walking into a special exhibition of lavish flower paintings from the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age. But a closer look at the paintings will reveal something strange. While the compositions, tones and shades of the paintings are elegantly classical, the flowers are arranged in unusual celadon vases in the shape of a Nike basketball or with patterns of Mickey Mouse, instead of the Chinese blue-and-white porcelains that commonly appear in Dutch Golden Age paintings.

In fact, they are paintings by young Korean artist Kim Sung Yoon. In this solo show “Arrangement,” running through July 28, the artist presents 47 flower still life paintings he created in the style of the old European masters with high technique, an often-neglected virtue in contemporary art.

“In a continuation of his practice utilizing art historical archives as the foundation of his creative pursuits, the exhibition highlights over forty new works that reinterpret the meaning of the flower still life genre in a contemporary context,” Gallery Hyundai wrote on its web site.

In the eight paintings on the first floor, Kim arranges flowers from different seasons that cannot bloom together. This is also seen in the tradition of the 17th Century Dutch flower paintings. But Kim added some contemporary culture in the paintings by collecting the reference images of flowers through Google.

In addition, he arranged them into contemporary hybrid ceramic vases that really exist. Many were created by his friend, artist Yoo Eui-jeong.

Kim’s paintings have come to show a new phase of Eastern and Western cultures meeting, an evolution from the Western flowers in Chinese vases in the 17th-century Dutch paintings.

He plays with other variations of the old fashioned theme of flowers as well. On the underground floor are 16 paintings by Kim, which reproduce Edouard Manet’s colorful flower still life paintings made during his final bedridden years in black and white. “I wanted to express the sadness and beauty with the works,” Kim said.

The 23 paintings on the second floor show flowers arranged in glass food containers with their logos clearly visible. They allude to the capitalist and mass-production culture in our everyday life.

BY MOON SO-YOUNG [symoon@joongang.co.kr]


Admission is free. For details, visit www.galleryhyundai.com or call (02) 2287-3500.