Kang Hyung Koo's portraits are not merely dedicated to significant figures of art history, but are also intended to be a sensorial experience based on an enigmatic illusion balanced somewhere between Surrealism and Hyperrealism. Kang believes that Surrealism and Hyperrealism both deliver the same sensation by providing an illusion of reality and a sensorial misguidance through persuasive illustrations that simulate reality, and can both be the product of an improvisational automatism from the artist's psyche.
In both Warhol's Gaze (Lot 1501) and Van Gogh in the Dark (Lot 1502), Kang creates an illusory promise of reality that exploits the paradoxical principle behind hyperrealism. In Warhol's Gaze, the silver gray palette creates a mysterious and appealing magnetism; and the profound gaze of the eyes forces the viewer to confront the immense energy of the late Andy Warhol as he stares piercingly through our souls, intimidating and captivating us in a spell of his majestic presence.
Portrayed with unusual menace and mystery, the ethereal Van Gogh in the Dark imbues us with a feeling of suspense as his focused blue eyes shun our direct gaze. The turning profile of the artist is illuminated by a faint yellow light that strikes only one side of the face. The dark shadows on the canvas sings a melancholic tune that the aged, weighty eyes tell, and we find ourselves trapped in the spell of this theatricality.
Kang is celebrated for his technical virtuosity in assimilating emotional, political, social and cultural themes in singular visual motif of portraiture. Kang preserves his customary tendency of emphasizing the epidermis by magnifying facial features to provoke our emotions. The meticulous record of withered skin creates a swaying sense of attraction and repulsion, and the deliberate highlighting of the deep pools of the protagonist's eyes becomes the key in seeing into their internal psyche.
Kang echoes Aristotle's theory that, 'The aim of Art is to present not the outward appearance of things but their inner significance; for this, not the external manner and detail, constitutes true reality.' As much as it causes an unfamiliar discomfort, the intense faces seem to demand sympathy for the self-destructive lives and psychological suffering that both Warhol and van Gogh endured. Wrinkles that outgrow the years the artists lived to be hark a common tale of human desolation that lies behind their heavy expressions.
"The face is not always the most faithful representation of a person's inner thoughts. Indeed, just as one cannot judge a book by its cover, this is possible because humans have the ability to fabricate their facial expressions... Any fabricated facial expression creates the effect of wearing a mask. And it is my suggestion that we should never take off the mask... Living life is to torture the face. The facial surface is the most aged part of the human body. It is always exposed and therefore subject to suffering."
-Kang Hyung Koo