17 Nov Brief notes on Korean aesthetics
The themes of nature, space and time, always the focus of the ESH Gallery’s programming, are once again investigated through the concepts of Oriental aesthetics thanks to the artworks of two Korean artists. Through the glass works of Kyou-Hong Lee and the skilful weavings of Kyeok Kim, exhibited for the first time in a gallery in Italy, it is therefore possible to trace the legacy of certain fundamentals of traditional Korean aesthetics.
The first aspect to be taken into account, which has emerged in the centuries-old Korean artistic journey, is the importance given to inner beauty over sensory beauty.
The artists’ attention is focused on enhancing the energy and spirit inherent in the work, assuming a position of respect for the creative act and, above all, the artist’s inner world. In fact, Kyeok Kim reminds us of the exact moment – the imprint of a piece of jewellery left on his skin – when she decided to explore the use of texture and make it a symbol of a past experience. Not to be outdone, Kyou-Hong Lee uses natural light in his works to create dreamlike reflections and colour changes, altering the environment and creating a continuous movement within the work. Lee describes this exploration of the contours of light as a ‘light from my heart radiating a strong positive energy’.
Secondly, the value of art is not just for the complacency of creators or admirers, but for its pragmatic role in contributing to human life in a broader sense.
In other words, true art is considered to fulfil practical purposes such as the purification of human nature and the education of society. For this reason, beauty and art are not valued for their uniqueness, but are accepted as having a relationship with ethics and politics. It is impossible to think of art as anything other than education or human life. Art is a method to cultivate the completion of the person and has value as a manifestation of a noble character. Lee’s works are perfectly anchored in this moral vision of art: the pieces of glass arranged irregularly on the surface with no defined colour, although monochromatic, give the perception of a harmonious beauty in a chaotic situation. A sense of harmony in disorder is reinforced by the contrasting textures between the frosted glass surfaces and the three-dimensional elements, a pure image of the artist’s continuous search for balance in life.
Ultimately, the Koreans’ aesthetic consciousness does not turn to the flashy and luxurious, but to simple and sometimes frugal beauty. It is underpinned by an awareness of trying to return to nature that exists on its own without the addition of human artificiality: nature itself can only be kept intact in a state where the object is seen in its totality or ‘oneness’. According to the Korean perspective on nature, nature is ‘so in itself’ and beauty and art follow this law of nature. Form and subject matter of Kim’s weavings are there to remind us of this.
Rif.: Joosik Min, “Aesthetics in Korea: Traditions and Perspectives” in The Slovak Journal of Aesthetics, Vol 11, No1, 2022, pp.7-17.