Yun Hyong-keun at Hastings Contemporary Until 1 October 2023
The UK’s first ever public gallery exhibition of works by Yun Hyong-keun, one of the leading figures of Korean art, will take place at Hastings Contemporary this summer.
Yun Hyong-keun, Umber-Blue, 1974, Oil on cotton, 91.5 x 116.3 cm, © Yun Seong-ryeol. Courtesy of PKM Gallery.
“The thesis of my painting is the gate of heaven and earth. Blue is the colour of heaven, while umber is the colour of earth. Thus, I call them ‘heaven and earth’, with the gate serving as the composition,” Yun once explained.
This is particularly relevant to Hastings Contemporary’s location, as the gallery is sited on the Old Town’s Stade, looking out onto the differing shades of blue of the expansive sky and sea. This is further reflected by the exhibition’s opening sequence of paintings; a small group of umber and ultramarine works from the early 1970s.
The show then continues by exploring the genesis of ‘the gate of heaven and earth’ with several works displaying its gradual widening until it almost disappears with the closing work – from the year of Yun’s death in 2007 – realised in Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue, in which ‘heaven’ is now almost completely suppressed by ‘earth’.
Yun Hyong-keun, No Title, 1972, Oil on cotton, 126 x 94.7 cm© Yun Seong-ryeol. Courtesy of PKM Gallery.
The concept of silence created by Yun’s work, particularly through the interpretation of gates or portals as voids, has the effect of turning the gallery space into a chapel or temple. The window onto the Old Town is veiled, as are the skylights, to enhance the meditative power of the individual paintings. This allows the viewer to be absorbed by the subtle range of tones, which on closer examination reveal the mix of ultramarine and umber through the blending of the two colours.
In the aftermath of the Korean War (1950 – 1953), the country found itself effectively isolated from the rest of the world’s art markets and movements. This led South Korean artists to create their own sets of rules derived from the Korean tradition and creative parameters in the field of abstraction, with a group including Yun founding the Dansaekhwa movement.
Yun Hyong-keun, Burnt Umber & Ultramarine Blue, 1999, Oil on linen, 209 x 291.4cm. © Yun Seong-ryeol. Courtesy of PKM Gallery.
Liz Gilmore, Director says: “Our gallery, Hastings Contemporary, strives to show the very best of modern and contemporary art whilst also being one of the greenest galleries in the UK. The inspirational presence of Yun’s retrospective on the occasion of the 58th edition of the Venice Art Biennale gave momentum to our thinking and planning to bring Yun to Hastings. The exhibition will focus on Yun’s stunning and reflective umber and ultramarine paintings, which makes such a fitting juxtaposition with our location between land and sea.”
For more information about the exhibition and its accompanying programme of events go to
Yun Hyong-keun, Umber-Blue ‘77, 1977, Oil on linen, 200 x 68 cm, © Yun Seong-ryeol. Courtesy of PKM Gallery.