Kwon Young-Woo's (1926-2013) works explore the relationship between traditional materials and abstract expression. The artist is considered as a pioneer in Korean abstract art known as Dansaekhwa. He enrolled at Seoul National University‟s art school as a member of its first class with a major in Oriental Painting in 1946, and also earned a Master of Fine Arts from the same school in 1957.
In his early career, Kwon worked with ink painting to achieve pure harmony of paper and ink; however, in the early 1960s he soon began working solely with paper and developed his own style. Insisting only on paper, Kwon moved away from brush and black-stone ink and challenged traditional Western uses of paper and canvas. He would use his fingernails to scratch and tear paper and then stack another layer over it. Kwon‟s layers-upon-layers of glued paper turned flat canvas into three- dimensional sculpture. By defying the conventional use of paper, Kwon added a new dimension by being able to view the tactile of paper from all directions. Along with this technique, Kwon also took advantage of the blotting nature of ink by applying it onto the torn edges of his paper.
Kwon Young-Woo has participated international exhibitions including Tokyo Biennale (1965), São Paulo Biennial (1973), and Five Whites from Korea at the Tokyo Gallery (1975). Kwon Young-Woo's work was also exhibited at Jacques Massol Gallery, Paris in 1976 where Kwon was a long-time resident. More recently Kwon Young-Woo was included in the exhibition on Dansaekhwa, at the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, curated by Yongwoo Lee, founding director of the Gwangju Biennale in 2015. Other major solo exhibitions include Kwon Young Woo: the Life in the Papers held at the Seoul Museum of Art in 2007, and his major retrospective at Ho-Am Art Museum, Seoul in 1990. Kwon received the Artist Award twice from the Korean Minister of Culture for his works Fantasy of the Seashore (1958) and Road to an Island (1959). Additionally, he was honored as the 1998 Korean Artist of the Year and awarded the Silver Crown Medal of the Order of Cultural Merit (2001) and Gwangju Culture & Arts Order (9th Huh Bak-ryeon Prize) (2003). His works are held in many important permanent collections including the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea; Leeum,Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, and the British Museum in London. Kwon Young-Woo died in Seoul on November 14, 2013.