Ceremony of Pilgrimage for the revival of etching
Kang Jung Hun makes use of the unique features of aquatint to control the tonal variation of more than 10 different tones in a single base hue, creating a monochromatic but strong sense of visual cohesion. In most cases, aquatint is created in a single base color. This is why in order to express the control of, for example, light, shades, and tones, as well as fine lines, one must appropriately apply a contrast of light and shade created by a fine technique and corrosion resistance used, An aquatint etching work produced using this technique creates an amazing print that exquisitely compromises a taste of photographs and a taste of paintings.
Kang, who makes etching using the aquatint technique, aims to show not only the outcome of his works but also the context of how each etching was produced, from gathering necessary materials to the completion. It is a long-term project with elements of documentation, recording the life of a work.
Kang, who had immersed himself in the world of etching upon graduation, left to continue his study in England. There, he expands the scope of his research into the field of media. My guess is that he sparked the idea of this work during this process.
Kang, noticing that printmaking papers use cotton as a raw material, put together a long-term project for the duration of about a year: from germinating cotton seeds, harvesting, manufacturing printmaking papers to ultimately producing art works using the printmaking papers. Printmakers of hundreds of years ago, in fact, would have done something similar, too. Then division of labor gradually increased, separating the processes of, for example, supplying papers and manufacturing from selling paints, and printmakers likely began to purchase such items.
If so, why would Kang choose to carry out this difficult process from scratch (which could be seen as a waste of time)? Two reasons probably exist for this. It is clear that as an etching artist, personally experiencing the various stages of the process instead of jumping to the final stage of simply laying out an image on a printmaking paper helps with his work and enriches creativity. As such, I can see the necessity of going through such process at least once in the lifetime of an artist.
In addition to such intention for his work, Kang is well-acknowledged of the phenomenon that the relative stagnation of the etching industry has been deepening due to the serious imbalance between genres in the current art industry. In this context, Kang attempts to express metaphorically his struggle as an etching artist. The work of planting and sprouting cotton seeds germinated inside (and outside of) his art studio using artificial light; harvesting cotton; and ultimately producing printmaking papers is perhaps a spiritual pilgrimage like a ceremony for Kang.
For the field of etching art, such consciousness will be preserved in the forms of cultivation records, photographs, and video recordings, and will be celebrated.
Such work of Kang appears in the form of installation art. To give light to the cotton sprouts being cultivated indoors, Kang uses the light of a beam projector, beaming BBC news reports on, for example, war, bombing, and destroyed buildings. Perhaps the news reflects Kang’s intention to highlight the shadows and darkness of a deserted and barren city and of human life while yearning and hoping to discover empathy among humans which is unfortunately fading away.
Because the project is to last about a year and only began in the spring of this year, Kang has yet reached the stage of producing printmaking papers from his cotton plants. Nonetheless, germinated cotton seeds are stored carefully in an incubator with light fixtures and a ventilation system for light, water, and wind.
Kang knows well that his cotton plants will show a considerable difference in the growth rate, condition, and probability of cotton production compared to cotton grown in nature. Nevertheless, through the process, Kang will focus on observing over time each stage of growth (flowering). Recalling Kang’s past etching works titled “Overflow” with people and sceneries in a big city, this changing process of fragile tiny seeds ultimately become printmaking papers is a process that has a special meaning to Kang.
No one knows whether Kang will be successful. What is important is that Kang has been working on the project genuinely and attentively, making success or failure insignificant. The principles of the growth of plants and nature will positively affect Kang’s creative works in the future. Once he completes this project, his next goal is to make his own etching press, and collect natural materials for lithographic inks, and finally produce etching works.
Apart from the production process and production method, the ultimate finish will reveal Kang’s topic of interest: the truth of life and ourselves in everyday life. The lyrical consensus his latest works will deliver will not be much different from that of his previous works, but he will be able to better convey his passion and authenticity for etching in more depth and the aquatint technique is expected to create high-quality works.
Ha Kyehun / Art critic