People’s hands change everything. If the change is pure, the purity permeates, naturally. Even if the change is not pure, this is finally forgotten by great purity. A process of planning, constructing, again planning and redeveloping a city is quite a natural phenomenon. Even if such plans are dominated by power and desire, they are merely happenings of an age and will be forgotten by great purity.


- Of the Kang, EunGoo Artist Note




Night for All



It is perhaps silly to ask an artist about what material means in his work. That is because for artists like Kang Eun-goo, who depict urban nights with the material of steel, it is not too much to say that steel is more than material: it is a frame to see reality or its trajectory. Kang’s art cannot be discussed without mentioning the material of steel. It would be the same if he engaged other work since for the artist steel is not material for his sculpture or composition but matter that is always in his struggle and life, filled with abundance by itself. The sound and smell aroused when cutting and moving steel in his father’s metal workshop in Cheonggyecheon, which he experienced as a child, have ironically turned into his internalized sense, hard to disregard or reject. This sense derives from an overlap of his will to fabricate something and his perception of reality, here and now. Through his work steel becomes a dark urban night and a gloomy space bearing light. As he suggests that metal is softer than we expect, and its color changes according to humidity and temperature, Kang creates an urban night, transforming steel into layers in a pop-up style. Like the material of steel, the landscape of ‘urban night’ is one he has desired to know even though it is hard to answer. The urban night he has consistently concentrated on becomes ‘Night for All’ in this exhibition. At a glance, his work looks abundant and fantastic with lighting and mood smearing out from between steel structures. In the show however, Kang tries to reply, and he doubts if the nights he looks at and faces ever become ‘nights for all’. The urban nightscapes that seemed cozy look like real situations in multiple layers. A redevelopment area in Ahyeon-dong, Seoul, unidentified high-rising buildings, and steel fences between them wriggle to showcase another concealed drama. The artist says that he intends to present ‘urban gloominess’ and ‘his critical ideas’ as something ‘more beautiful’, paradoxically addressing steel through a process of architectural design. The suffering he underwent as an urban dweller whenever moving his studio and the rain-swept rainbow he saw during midsummer are his experience and departure point of his work. In this sense, familiarity coexists with unfamiliarity in the urban night Kang portrays. A city’s day and night, its growth and decline are hidden in every urban scene in his work. A cityscape fabricated with metal and light is repeated in a rectangular frame. Under close examination however, high-rise buildings standing perilously, and unknown religious icons depicted with steel 1mm wide reveal diverse gaps. Is the city, whose light is about to turn off, and whose light is about to brighten? Kang brings an abridged Eulji-ro back alley scene of the shops with the half-opened shutters to the exhibition. There are those spending a night while making something in a small space cut off by the shutters from the exterior in the back of the urban nightscapes illustrated with steel.


By Hyun Si-won, Art Theory




The Tale of ‘Great Purity’ Engendered from a City Itself



Kang Eun-goo represents cities. The motif of his work is a city at night or an urban night. Kang’s cities are made up of metal, material most familiar to the artist. He notes the fact that steel is in time and has its own history. The kernel of the aesthetics he discovers in steel is steel responds sensitively to temperature and humidity, like human emotion does. The time he witnessed metal’s emotional aspects dates back to his childhood days. As he often visited his father’s metal processing workshop, his work encapsulates the memory of his father’s time. Rust on the surface of steel as historical trace is not all he is inspired by: He finds formative possibility in stainless steel’s unique color and texture. Another fundamental element in Kang’s cities is light. The light always radiates from the background of a city revealing the outlines of high-rise buildings and windows. The light glittering from the back always underlines the silhouettes of neutral architectural structures. With the light, his urban nightscape seems brilliant. However, in his cities, a primitive duet of light and darkness is performed with severed metal surfaces and artificial light. His city shows a showy landscape composed with a most primitive material. Significant is that Kang succeeds in revealing a city itself, as a being, by merging the whole city in darkness and abbreviating its details, busy operations, and auxiliary elements. No pedestrians are visible in his work, which is a critical aesthetic strategy for presenting the whole we cannot notice as our senses concentrate on details. Likewise, Kang has addressed the being of a city, its corporeality, and an aesthetic dimension only a city may have. Kang’s world is epic, created with a cold metallic quality and impenetrable light. The city he creates is a form in which the physical is merged with the non-physical, and the emotional, and a world that consists of the cold that is in no way cold. The artist does not mention dramas taking place in a city. He pays no attention to power games, dramas of love and hate, episodes of success and failure. The subject to which he is attentive is only a city as a being itself. A city’s geometric skin; its material conveying emotional fragments; its physical nature; and its history and circulation implied by them all ------ The artist connotes all these as a city’s ‘great purity’.


By Shim Sang-yong, Ph.D. in Art History & Dongduk Women’s University Professor