‘Time does its work’, Artist Jang Kwang Bum 시간의 본질을 모색하다. 작가 장광범

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Photos by Jang Kwang Bum 

How can a dynamic dimension be materialized in a static work? How can a progressive flow be captured within an inert representation? How, then, can time be set within a painting? A brief look at the history of visual art and some significant portrayals of it, uncovers diverse approaches to finding a solution to this dilemma. But what emerges from this exhibition is above all the particular creativity of Jang Kwang Bum in seeking to solve the complex but fascinating challenge of making time visible.

In order to visualise time, Jang Kwang Bum dispenses with all the emblematic elements in vogue from antiquity to the present age: processions, ranks, successions, series, cycles, allegories, symbols and many others. Instead, the artist has been inspired by three main sources to unite the inherent dynamism of time and the immobility of the canvas in an innovating and fascinating manner: St. Augustine’s philosophical concept of time, the application of different layers of paint on a wall and the traces of time in nature.

Jang Kwang Bum’s canvases do indeed actualize a synthesis of the past, the present and the future with the present: the gestation of a painting is a process which evolves through a succession of present moments, where each one implies the previous ones and is projected to the subsequent ones, in the cycle of a period which extends from the blank canvas to the final piece. During this creative operation, the artist recalls the original idea, he updates it in the present moment by producing the image, and orientates his action following the inspiration of the future painting. Finally, at the place of exhibition, the creative act has passed, but it is in the present moment that the observer is confronted by the image, which furthermore may provoke memories, wishes or hopes.

However Jang Kwang Bum’s aspiration proves itself still more radical and more complex: it is to materialize time, to make time visible in the painting itself. Indeed, for the painter the image of time is connected to the image retained in the memory. The imprint left in the spirit by what has been lived, constitutes the image of a past reality; yet traces of the memory rise up in the present, reaching the awareness of the artist at the moment of the pictorial creation and seek their due expression in the productive process so as to be engraved within the painting, embodying the time which generated them, inclusive the period right up to their expression – and even beyond: their incarnation in the painting bestows this representation of time an indeterminate permanence.

Jang Kwang Bum’s painting essentially comprises two distinct processes: the application and the removal of paint. First, he covers the entire surface of the blank canvas with several layers of white paint, then he alternates these coatings with layers of coloured paint. This covering stage requires 5 to 6 litres of paint and lasts around two weeks, including drying time. This first phase corresponds to the “materialization” of time; as it passes it takes shape, gains substance and enters a phase of expectation.

Next, the artist begins to remove material. Placing rounded objects with different edges and diameters one by one behind the canvas, he sands the front side so that the layers of colour appear, occasionally until the white base coating is reached. In this way, he reveals countless interlaced circles all different in size and shape, gently connected or standing out in sharp relief. Such a technique requires obviously immense attention, sensitivity, diligence and patience. The result is amazing: all is movement, all seems liquid, boiling, flowing, everything moves both lively and subtly – however it is fixed material on the canvas, on the wall.

In a surprising and fascinating manner, Jang Kwang Bum has managed by this work process to capture the time, and through the final work to represent its very essence – to create this “impossible” unity between time and visibility. His work seems to be a perfect incarnation of  Bergson’s reflections on time. Probably the artist’s native culture, the imagination, sensitivity and finesse of the Korean aesthetic, allied to western culture, has been requisite to create such a unique work.

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작가 장광범은 중앙대학교 회화과를 졸업하고 현재 파리 8대학에서 조형예술학 박사과정을 밟고 있다.  파리 소나무 작가협회원으로도 활동하고 있으며  유럽에서 활동하는 실력있는 젊은 한국인 작가로 주목 받고 있는 작가 장광범. 수 차례의 그룹전에서 작가 자신만의 독특한 주제의식을 바탕으로 ‘시간은 과연 어떤 형상을 하고 있는가?’, ‘시간의 이미지는 과연 무엇인가?’ 같은 형이상학적인 질문들을 던져왔다.  특히 그의 이미지는 넓은 의미에서의 사물의 재현을 지칭하고 있다. 작가에게 시간의 이미지는 기억 속에 잠재하는 영상들에 가깝기 때문에 다양한 사건들이 남기고 간 흔적이며 현실 그 자체가 아닌 지나간 과거의 실재로 그 본질을 달리하기 때문이다. 그는 형태를 규정할 수 없고 파악하기조차 힘든 흔적들에서 ‘과거의 현재’를 발견하는가 하면, 시간의 이미지에 대한 새로운 해석을 찾는다.

장광범의 회화는 크게 물감을 입히는 작업과 걷어내는 작업으로 진행된다. 여러 겹의 흰색 물감을 캔버스 위에 바르고 대략 2주간에 걸쳐 다른 색상의 물감과 흰 물감을 번갈아 입히고 말리는 작업을 한다. 5~6리터의 상당량의 물감을 덧입히는 이 과정은 작가에게 시간을 ‘물질화’하는 작업이며, 작업에 소요되는 시간은 물질이 더해져 가시적으로 모양을 드러낸다. 두번째 단계는 물질을 걷어내는 작업으로, 캔버스의 뒷면에 볼록한 물체를 대고 물감이 입혀진 표면을 연마기로 갈아낸다. 작가는 덜어내는 작업 과정의 정당성을 자코메티의 조각에서 모색하며 그 예를 제시하고 있다. 살점이 거의 없는 뼈대만으로 인체를 표현한 자코메티의 인체작업은 사물의 본질에 근접하는 방법이다. 덜어냄으로써 오히려 무게가 느껴지는 존재감을 나타내게 되는데, 장광범의 모든 작업과정 역시 시간의 본질에 다가가기 위한 이러한 지각과 인지를 바탕으로 하고 있다.

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