On 29th October 2018, Dominique de Villepin took part in an event focused on the exhibition organized by the Kwai Fung Gallery about the work of the South-Korean painter Myonghi. At this occasion, he wrote the following text paying tribute to the paintings of Myonghi.
Myonghi is a rare artist. Rare in her exhibitions, as her last exhibition at the Kwai Fung Gallery dates back to 2014, but even rarer because of her qualities, her talents and in short her difference in the contemporary world of artistic creation. She brings a unique meaning in her work, a precision, a technicality resulting from a long-standing practice when many are focused on mass consumption works, never in touch with our human questionings. This selection shows the magnitude of her palette, ranging from her delicate and ridged paintings escaping the white reserve of the canvas to rich landscapes, loaded with life where colours confront one another the way sky and earth attract, repel, interpenetrate each other.
Myonghi pursues her meditation to capture the vibration of the world, a spiritual quest through the infinite refractions of the light. More than ever her attention is turned to the shimmering of the world, the brightness of its colours, the contrast of its strengths. She reaches new heights in masterpieces such as the Temps des Camélias (The Time of Camellias) or the Champs de pins, air de Wang Meng (Pine Fields, air of Wang Meng). Myonghi increasingly extends the scale of her techniques, between works on paper and oils on canvas, the scope of her paintings, from the small to the very large formats of her more recent works, the variety of her approaches between returning to nearly figurative landscapes and compositions confronting the quick movement of expressive strokes of the brush. Sometimes, when seeing her in front of her large formats, so frail in front of the empty canvas, painting with relish we feel as if the canvas were to cover the whole world to enable us to see it in its entirety.
This exhibition reflects an unprecedented rooting for Myonghi, a trip back to her native land, to Korea and the studio in Jeju, this island of castaways and travellers between the Korean peninsula, the Japanese archipelago and the Confucian mountains of Chinese Shandong. This island has for a long time been known to the Western world under the strange and poetic name of « Quelpart » island (Somewhere island). And that is what it was, a place where to begin the description of the world, the « talking about the world » as Marco Polo imagined it when returning from these foreign lands ; a Quel(que)part (Somewhere) from where to launch her spiritual ships to capture the riches of the world and where to sail back loaded with loots. After the time of travels and expeditions, from where she brought back pieces of nature and shards of landscapes as in a cabinet of curiosities in the 18th Century, she now seeks to review the same fragments and perspectives to understand the laws of changes and variations. It is a bird, a pine thicket, a camellia that keep her attention and become the laboratory of new representations.
Myonghi’s link to her native country, South Korea, is complicated, intimate, secret. She started her career by taking over a Western tradition of art, confronting world issues in Paris at a time when Korea remained closed and often impenetrable.
Korea, and more especially South Korea, has nowadays become a central place for contemporary art. After being for a long time considered as the outskirt of distant faiths or the worst possession and dependence of nearby empires, the country has become the symbol of post-modern tearings. We know the geopolitical issues that placed the peninsula at the centre of the eyes of the world this last year, generating both hopes and anxieties, we of course remember the Korean land beaten by the winds of History, broken under the Japanese yoke during World War II, torn apart between two blocs in the wake of the Korean War. Nowhere in the world has the changeover from tradition to modernism been so precipitous, shifting from a rural world, enclosed and infinitely repeated to an urban universe, linked to the world, involved in constant changes. An extraordinary prosperity but also, as we can imagine, a challenge for Korean consciousness. Only art, only creation can help overcome the doubts as to identities and the anguish about the future. Europe knows it, torn by separatism and populism, the United States do not ignore it in the turmoil of doubts generated by Trump’s presidency. Those who during the storm will be able to cling to the tangible realities of art, will be able to give meaning to their experience and the one of their contemporaries, will lay the foundations of a common future.
Myonghi is not a history painter, the very idea would make her smile, no doubt, but nevertheless she knows that no painting, no landscape is out of history. Any consciousness of nature is consciousness of the future in history. She knows that only reconciliation can offer a path of peace with oneself, with the world and between people. It is no coincidence if in these troubled times, the tragedy of man’s world suddenly once again bursts into her work, as in her monumental Syrie, Evacuation (Syria, Evacuation). Woman painter, Myonghi brings a sensitivity deeply linked to our world, with her expectations, her moments of frustration and her surges of hope.