Kimsooja, i colori dell’universo.Kimsooja’s universe’s colors

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Sulla teoria dei colori, nei secoli, si sono espressi vari studiosi, e anche un poeta come Goethe. L’artista coreana Kimsooja, che da anni ha messo al centro della sua ricerca (anche spirituale) la luce, la Natura e lo spazio, ci presenta oggi alla galleria Tschudi di Zuoz (in Engadina) una concezione del colore che deriva dal rapporto tra Yin e Yang, oltre che dalla riflessione che ne fa il Confucianesimo e il Taoismo. Con la parola Obangsaek i coreani definiscono lo spettro di colori della natura dell’universo. E ad ogni colore corrispondono elementi naturali, profumi, desideri e caratteristiche umane.



Obangsaek is the Korean color field that represents the nature of the universe. Signifying the four cardinal points and the center, the five colors of Obang (directionality) and Saek (color) draw from the philosophies of the cultures that originally formed the Ural-Altaic linguistic family. The theory of the colors derives from the relationships of Yin and Yang, Confucianism and Taoism. Obangsaek assigns elements of nature, flavors, wishes, desires and characteristics of human nature to each of the colors. Yellow at the center, signifies universe, earth, power and dignity. East (blue) represents wood, spring and happiness. West (white) is metal, autumn, innocence and truthfulness. South (red) is known as the color for summer, fire, creativity and passion. North (black) is water and winter, intelligence and wisdom. The color spectrum presented in this exhibition is a secondary color spectrum associated with the symbolic Obangsaek color field.

Kimsooja-Zuoz-2 copia

Galerie Tschudi is pleased to present To Breathe: Obangsaek by acclaimed multi disciplinary conceptual artist, Kimsooja. The exhibition, which is the artists’ second solo at Galerie Tschudi, includes several new works and many others that have never been shown in Europe. To Breathe: Obangsaek explores the artist’s ongoing questions as a painter and Obangsaek theory, which has led her to move beyond the surface to the activation of space as an experience of light in such site-specific installations as The Crystal Palace in Madrid, the Korean Pavilion at the 55th Biennale di Venezia and most recently in A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir at Cornell University, New York.

The exhibition title comes from the site-specific installation, To Breathe: Obangsaek which was first realized as part of “The Lift” elevator wallpaper project, organized by Art21 at the Bloomberg building in New York in 2013. In this installation, wallpaper printed with obangsaek pattern envelops the viewer, activating the body as the fifth element of directionality—the center. In other rooms Deductive Object: Obangsaek (2014) carpets—similar to those used in Korean weddings—roll up or stretch out, leading directionality in relation to bodies and their journeys. Similarly, the Seven Wishes (2004) print portfolio translates the cardinal points of Obangsaek into wishes that connect to the sensory and emotional experience of humanity as a symbolic frame of human life.

Moving from an autobiographical approach to reach universality in her use of bedcovers, Kimsooja expands her exploration to a global context in To Breathe – The Flags (2012), as a frame of nationhood that leads to transnational status. In this video piece, 246 national flags dissolve in a continuous loop, their iconic surfaces morphing into one another. In the first iteration of this work, which was commissioned by the IOC Olympic Museum, Lausanne for the 2012 London Olympic Games, the artist layered the flags of all the participating countries in a reflection of the unifying spirit of the games. In To Breathe – The Flags, this proposition is expanded to include all of the world’s national flags in alphabetical order without hierarchy or political prejudice, in the hope of creating a visual experience whereby national difference and conflicts can be merged and harmonized as one.

Drawing us back from the symbolic to the essence of humans and life, the video works Fire of Air (2009) and Mirror of Air (2010) are extracts from the artist’s explorations of the elemental forces of nature and their relationship of mutual circulation and connection. This powerful presence of matter is questioned by the tiny voids in sand created by crabs’ regurgitation on a beach near the Yonggwang nuclear power station, as depicted in the Architecture of Vulnerability (2010-2013) lightbox series. These images of an elemental structure of presence and absence created by nature, recall the relationship of Yin and Yang to the human body, which has been a central concern of Kimsooja’s work for many years.

An Album: Hudson Guild (2009) simultaneously evokes a sense of past, present and future through video portraits of elderly people at Hudson Guild Community Center in New York. The figures—who appear at times facing the viewer and at times with backs turned, respond by turning to face the camera when the artist calls their names, recalling the memory of her deceased father.

Deductive Object: Unfolding Bottari (1991-2014) includes 223 images taken by the artist at flea markets around the world. Accumulated, the vulnerability of objects in a moment of transition questions the destination of human desire and that of possession.

All of Kimsooja’s investigations are contextualized from the processes of mundane daily acts such as sewing, weaving, wrapping and unfolding that begin with her gaze as a painter and expands towards all possible directionalities.

The multiple directionality of the artist’s gaze actively draws the delicate thread that she follows so compellingly in the Thread Routes series. In this series, the films function as a structural investigation into the similarities in performative elements of textile construction and their relationship to nature, architecture, agriculture and gender relationships across cultures and geographic zones.

For the first time in Europe, Kimsooja will present Thread Routes – Chapter II (2011) which is the second in the six part series of films shot on 16mm. Filmed in various European cities, the film depicts a wide variety of lace making techniques, woven together with images of delicate yet grand European structures such as the Duomo in Milan, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora and La Alhambra in Granada. The bold, masculine and power-oriented monumental architectural forms and structures are juxtaposed with the delicate, feminine and ephemeral lace making alongside the structure of local flowers and vegetation.

Since the late 70s, Kimsooja has transformed and redefined the notion of painting into object/sculptural pieces, performance, video, and site-specific sound and light installations. Her innovation has been to question the surface/tableau, self and the other; dealing with existential, natural, cultural and political borders from the concept of obangsaek and its dimensionality with relation to the artist’s body in the world; contextualizing her own concepts in parallel to Western art history.

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