|Matthew Stone's 'Holding (Removed)' / Courtesy of the artist and Choi & Lager Gallery
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Art of the 21st century uses a wide range of materials and methods, and more artists are looking for novel ideas to stand out.
Amid the surge of new media, painting was once considered dead, but in fact the genre never dies as painters continue to experiment with new methods and reinterpret existential themes through the traditional medium.
British artist Matthew Stone is a painter of the digital era. His pieces might look like ordinary oil paintings with visible brushstrokes, but they are digital manipulations.
His second solo show in Korea, opened on June 26 at Choi & Lager Gallery Seoul, is titled "Small Awakenings."
"We are now used to listening to music digitally. Matthew is a pioneer in painting digitally," the gallery's founder Jari Lager said.
|Matthew Stone's 'Dream' / Courtesy of the artist and Choi & Lager Gallery
Stone saw pure beauty in the color, composition and shape of dripping paint, but he thinks the traditional medium has done all it can do. So he invented his own way of digitally reconstructing painting.
"I normally say [my work is] digital painting, but it could be either painting, printing, photograph or 3-D modelling. I guess the works have their own definitions," Stone said during a press conference in Seoul on June 25.
He paints on glass, take photographs of the paintings, digitally edits the photo and uses a 3-D modelling program to apply the painted textures and light and shadow. The digitally rendered image is printed on traditional linen canvas.
"I still use brushes, but also digital elements. I move things around on the computer until it becomes a painting. I put the objects in a 3-D space and add fake shadows to make them look real," the artist explained.
"We are living in a period integrating the Internet. If you have look at the history of information, whenever there is a new invention such as a scroll or a book, a spiritual shift happens at the same time," the artist said. "The way I work using digital tools is my try to take on the struggle of making something real and human."
|Kim Sung-yoon poses for a photo in front of his paintings at Gallery Hyundai in central Seoul. Courtesy of Gallery Hyundai
Flower still life of 21st century
Flowers were once a popular subject for still life, but the genre as well as flowers never took high places in the hierarchy of figurative art.
Kim Sung-yoon, 34, explores new possibilities of still life with flowers in the era of consumerism in his exhibition "Arrangement" at Gallery Hyundai in central Seoul.
"In contemporary art, a flower is not flower, but seen through different perspectives and layers of meanings are projected on it. But I think a flower is a flower, a beautiful flower. That is why I tried to express the beauty of flowers on all three floors of the gallery," Kim said. "Consider it a type of arrangement from the perspective of a painter, not a florist."
The 34-year-old artist's previous works are poles apart from the new flower paintings. In 2011, he presented "Athletes," a series of portraits of early Olympic sports in John Singer Sargent's style, and zombie apocalypse themed series "DEAD MAN" in 2014.
|Kim Sung-yoon's 'Assorted Flowers in the White Porcelain Jar with a Blue Dragon' (2019) / Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Hyundai
On the first floor are large, fancy flower arrangements in contemporary ceramic vases, inspired by the lavish and extravagant style developed by 17th century Dutch artists such as Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Kim calls them as "Google Arrangements" as the flower arrangements are not available in reality. "These flowers bloom in different seasons and regions and it is impossible to arrange them together in real life. The flowers I painted are modeled after collected images from Google, pictures I took and flowers in still life paintings by other artists I admire," Kim explained.
The vases are works by ceramic artist Yoo Eui-jeong, adding a modern twist to the traditional still life genre.
Sixteen black and white still life paintings of flowers are displayed on the first basement floor.
"These are inspired by 'The Last Flowers of Manet,' a collection of 16 small paintings of flowers created by French modernist painter Edouard Manet in the last two years of his life. Manet's paintings were beautiful and sad at the same time. I purchased the same flowers from the paintings including lilacs, carnations, peonies and clematises and tried to reenact the sentiments in Manet's last paintings," Kim said.
|Kim Sung-yoon's 'Peonies in a Polli Jar' (2018) / Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Hyundai
On the second floor are flower paintings closer to those in daily life. "I gifted flowers to my wife and she put them in recycled bottles. I wanted to document those flowers of my life," he said.
Another element that makes the still life paintings is the colorful mat boards and gilded frames. "The bottles originally have labels, but we usually remove them before recycling them as vases. So I brought the logos to the frame mat and added gold leaves for kitschness."
Though he used some art historical elements in his works, but reinterpreting 17th century Dutch floral still life and Manet's last paintings was not the aim of his paintings. "I repeated painting realistically and added historical values to the patterns I discovered," the artist explained.