Artist Statement: Water Series
I lived close to the ocean. When I wasn't painting, I took great pleasure in heading out to sea in a fishing boat. Out on the boat, in the breeze, bobbing on the waves, my body and mind felt a wonderful release from the cares of the world as I cast my line. As I reeled in my fish, I was often also able to "reel in" exciting ideas for my paintings.
Beyond the distant horizon, the endless, vast ocean, that boundless space! And that ocean holding within its vastness, the countless creatures of the sea! I was humbled by the awe-inspiring way the ocean hides such mysteries beneath its simple vastness. As an artist who had spent his whole life seeking beauty and trying to express it, I was moved by the ocean's ability to radiate such profound beauty at any given moment.
As the rays of the sun tumble into the ocean, the light spreads in an array of colors as if through a prism. At times, the light may reflect brilliantly and at other times it shimmers with more subdued intensity. The constantly moving atmosphere, the shifting sounds, the changing shape of the waves, light and color changing moment by moment—there is no moment when it can ever stop and no moment can ever look the same as the process of change and rebirth goes forward and yet … and yet the sea never changes and is forever constant.
So, when I look out upon the ocean, I tremble as if I am holding part of the universe in my hand. This is why, for the past thirty years I have ceaselessly tried, through The Water Series, to put that "tremble" onto my canvasses.
ARTIST YOUNG IL AHN
BORN IN KAE-SUNG, KOREA IN 1934, HE SPENT MOST OF HIS CHILDHOOD IN TOKYO, JAPAN. HIS FATHER WAS AN ARTIST AND HE BEGAN PAINTING FROM EARLY CHILDHOOD. AT AGE 6, HE HAD HIS FIRST SOLO SHOWING. HE STUDIED AND IMITATED THE COLOR AND COMPOSITION OF PAUL CEZANNE’S WORK. WHEN HE WAS YOUNG, HE PAINTED MORE REALISTICALLY BUT GRADUALLY BECAME INTERESTED IN ABSTRACT STYLE.
SAYS AHN, “IN THAT PERIOD, I THOUGHT ABSTRACT STYLE WAS THE MOST PURE FORCE OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS.”
“ABSTRACT ART IS NOT PAINTING THE REAL OBJECT. IF onE IS PAINTING A FLOWER ABSTRACTLY, HE SHOULD PAINT THE PART THAT HE FELT MOST PASSIONATELY. onE SHOULD NOT BE RESTRICTED BY COLOR OR FORM. IT COULD BE THE COMBINATION OF ALL.”
UNDER HIS FATHER’S INFLUENCE, HE BEGAN TO PAINT AND BECAME SUCCESSFUL. HOWEVER, HIS MOTHER WAS ALSO A GIFTED MUSICIAN AND HE COULD HAVE CHOSEN THIS FIELD AS WELL. AS A CHILD, WITHOUT ANY TRAINING, HE PLAYED CHOPIN’S FANTASIAFROM MEMORY. HE KEEPS HIS INSTRUMENTS OF CHOICE: CLARINET, CELLO AND PIANO AND OCCASIONALLY PLAYS WITH OTHER MUSICAL COLLEAGUES. HE ALSO FIND INSPIRATION on THE CANVAS FROM MUSIC, THUS THE CREATION OF THE MUSICIAN SERIES. SAYS AHN, “PAINTING IS A VISUAL ART, BUT WE CANNOT IGNORE THE AUDITORY COMPONENT OF ART.”
HE RETURNED TO KOREA WITH HIS PARENTS IN 1945 AND CONTINUED HIS SCHOOLING WHERE HIS FATHER WAS TEACHER IN CHUNG-JU. FOLLOWING HIS REPUTATION AS A CHILD PRODIGY IN JAPAN, HE ENTERED THE KOREAN NATIONAL EXHIBITION IN 1953 WITH AN OIL PAINTING CALLED RABBIT CAGE. ALTHOUGH HE WON THE TOP HONOR, THE JURY DECIDED NOT TO GRANT THE PRIZE DUE TO HIS PREMATURE AGE OF 19.
THE PAINTING, RABBIT CAGE, IS IN A PRIVATE COLLECTION OF MR. STANLEY HIETALA IN MINNESOTA. MOST OF HIS EARLY WORKS ARE IN POSSESSION OF AMERICAN COLLECTORS AND THEY WERE INSTRUMENTAL IN FACILITATING HIS IMMIGRATION PROCESS. THEY ALSO STAGED EXHIBITION IN NEW YORK AND CHICAGO PRIOR TO HIS MOVE TO AMERICA.
IN 1966 HE CHOSE TO SETTLE IN LOS ANGELES AS SPONSORED ARTIST OF ZACHARY GALLERY.
1970 WAS A DIFFICULT DECADE FOR AHN AND HE FOUND SOLACE IN PAINTING ALMOST 400 PIECES OF THE WATER SERIES INSPIRED BY THE OCEAN.
“IT WAS HARD TO BEGIN,” SAYS AHN WITH A SUBDUED VOICE. “IT IS SCARY TO FACE THE OCEAN FOR 24 HOURS IN SEARCH OF UNNAMED OBJECT. IT IS A POWERFUL STRUGGLE.” AFTER A MOMENT, HE CONTINUED: “FINALLY I MET THE OBJECT OF MY PAINTING. AS LONG AS I LIVE I SHALL CONTINUE TO PAINT WITH HONESTY AND PURITY.”
-WRITTEN BY SANG-OK SONG
2015 LONG BEACH MUSEUM OF ART, LONG BEACH CALIFORNIA
OPENING NIGHT - FEBRUARY 18TH, 5-7PM.
ONGOING SHOW GOES UNTIL APRIL 12TH.
2015 PALM SPRINGS ART FAIR, PALM SPRINGS CALIFORNIA
OPENING NIGHT - FEBRUARY 12TH, 7:30 - 9:30PM.
ONGOING SHOW GOES UNTIL FEBRUARY 15TH.
2015 KOREAN CULTURAL CENTER, LA CALIFORNIA
OPENING NIGHT - JANUARY 23RD, 7-9PM.
ONGOING SHOW GOES UNTIL FEBRUARY 12TH.