When I received Kwon Kiyoon's catalogue of his solo show a few days back, I remembered my last meeting with him in May 2008 in Korea. I’d met him as I’ve done so on every visit to Korea. He was one of my teachers while I was studying in college and have been inspired after every interaction with him.
Kwon Kiyoon graduated from Seoul National University in the early eighties and chose to return to his hometown, Andong, which was a centre for scholars. In 1988, he began to paint the landscape of Andong and its surroundings. His interest in the 17th century painter Jung Sun led him to study the classical tradition of landscape painting. Jung Sun had changed the way landscape painting was practised in the history of Korean painting when he began to paint outdoors. Landscape painting had until then been primarily constructed from the painter’s imagination of the observed world. The art forms of painting, literature, calligraphy and seal-making were interwoven and inseparable until the 20th century and Kwon Kiyoon’s art practice can be viewed from this premise.
Kwon Kiyoon uses a methodology where he chooses an outdoor location and works on a painting from start to finish in order capture the spirit of the landscape at that particular site. However, his landscapes reflect the philosophies of classical Korean and Chinese landscape painters, where the painting surpasses the depiction of what is seen and is invested with the artist’s experience of life.