Korean Artist Project: Min, Byung Hun is one of 21 outstanding artists selected by the Korean Artist Project. The Korean Artist Project is a global online website which aims to promote Korean contemporary artists hosted by the Ministy of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Korea and organized by the Korean Art Museum Association. KAP has launched with a three-year plan spanning from 2011 to 2013. At the first step in 2011, art professionals and critics selected 21 artists, and curators from 13 private art museums organized their virtual solo exhibitions. KAP would love to introduce a diverse spectrum of Korean contemporary art to the global audience. Through these efforts, KAP will play a significant role in the promotion and development of Korean contemporary art. Also, the KAP will become a useful platform, which will serve as a stepping-stone to create cultural exchange and global networks with diverse art people. Please visit www.koreanartistproject.com
Critic's Note: The primary impression of Min's photography is a ‘faintness,’ accompanied by an evocation of the passage of time and forgotten sensations. His art is based on both Asian and Western painting traditions, while his serial photography deals with nature as its subject matter. Mountains covered in snow, a city mired in fog and the sky over open fields, reed beds, darkness, the nude; such actual landscapes of reality are captured by the artist’s instant capture, then recreated as unique images with delicacy and immensely moving abstractions. Min’s interest centers on the variations and transformations in nature, and his work undergoes a unique reinterpretation of natural phenomena such as the flora, rain, wind, gales, snow, descending and disappearing fog. “When nature is present, we don’t recognize that it’s there. However, when it’s gone, or changed in some way, only then do we realize that it had been around. In other words, only at the moment of loss are memories restored. I’m not talking about something profound. I aim to focus on the small things, the trivial things, the things that change naturally, and I really personally empathize with those elements” Thus Min appreciates and absorbs trivialities that surround him and speaks of his own passionate method of becoming one with nature. Min works only in monochrome. Shades of grey as rich and as delicate as velvet together with the soft texture of the paper serve to further strengthen his refined and poetic creativity, and exude a beauty that we usually find in watercolors or calligraphy. The artist describes his own work as “akin to the aftertaste of the night’s dream lingering on in the early morning”. To him, everything is a matter of the senses. In other words, the principle challenge is to restore through the printing process the moment the shutter is pressed. Since 1998, he conceptualized and eventually completed his series while constantly shuttling between his Seoul residence and his workshop in Yangpyeong-gun. The mist that arises with dawn and dusk, covering his path and this smoke-like mist envelops the flora, houses and mountaintops buried beneath the dense, thick whiteness of the clouds. From a strictly formal perspective, Min’s series symbolizes simplicity of composition, purity of form, and minimalism. His palette ranges from typical bright greys to pure white, and more rarely a dense, thick monochrome grey. And in order to maintain the monotony of his colors, the pictures are characteristically absent of perspectives and contrasts. Indeed, in the series, regardless of its dimensions, the viewers gaze into a realm of multiple sensations laying dormant within ourselves, where we discover myriad delicate details that emerge and immediately disappear. A student of engineering, Min later became a self-taught photographer and above else centers his photography to capture ‘the decisive moment’ on camera, much in the manner of Henri Cartier-Bresson. (It would appear that the Korean photographers of the 1970s were profoundly influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson.) Therefore, it is his conviction that the image initially captured must not be tampered with--to prevent the distortion of reality no modifications should be made. Moreover, as a true believer in ‘pure photography’, Min endeavors to create an all encompassing abstraction with his pool of imagery, whereby one photography after another, one series after the other become fused into a process of synthesis. For example, a snow-covered valley might be reminiscent of the female nude, while a mountaintop might resemble a woman’s skyward-facing breasts. A blizzard blankets a forest, and clouds and mist shed their pale veil over the treetops. While Min makes no alterations to the initial negatives, in the development process he shows no hesitation in applying his handiwork to the task of modifying his photographs. This is his personal way of vividly recreating the images he witnessed, the textures he sensed when taking the photographs, sensibilities that have disappeared. These belong to the domain of the infinitely minute and the vulnerable, so the artist awaits the right moment and presses the camera shutter the instant when his subconscious commands, and returns to the darkroom to work on the printing processes whereby he relives the momentary experience. Min restlessly waits for the moment when the shades of the printed copy can precisely reflect his moment of inspiration. Abstract forms, entwined and transformed perspectives, dreary scenery, and the role of the subconscious remind us, as westerners, of surrealist imagery. Nevertheless, Min declares that he has never had a strong interest in European surrealism. In particular, his series is evocative of Brassaï’s and the Marshal Ney statue in the fog; in rejecting his own portrayal as a surrealist, Brassaï said the following; “Surrealism, in relation to my work, is merely reality that has been expressed fantastically through a certain perspective. I’ve only aimed to express reality, because nothing can be more surreal than that." Min who distances himself from any particular artistic trends or movements, is likely to find some agreement with Brassaï’s assertion. In summary, Min's work defends itself from the oncoming tsunami of plastic multicolor prints that have become a major player in contemporary Korean art, as if isolated from the world, placed outside of time itself and locked away in private solitude, matures artistically in its wake. Created with tremendous sensitivity, Min’s work is combined with the sensibilities of humanity observing nature, echoing in a collective subconscious that has retained romantic and lyrical traces, evoking those sensibilities both alive and forgotten; and as a sanctuary of peace, his work provides a moment of meditation and self-examination.