Kim Tschang-Yeul was born in Maengsan-gun, Pyeongannam-do in 1929. After learning calligraphy from his grandfather as a child, Kim encountered painting through calligraphy. He developed his future goal of being an artist when he studied dessin from his uncle when he was a student in Gwangseong High School. In the chaos that followed the liberation of that period, Kim studied painting at the Gyeongseong Art Research Institute, a private art institute. Several months later, he began to study painting at the Seongbuk Painting Laboratory of Master Lee Quede.

Kim entered the College of Fine Arts at Seoul National University in 1949, but dropped out in 1950 due to the Korean War, which began on June 25, 1950. He defected from North Korea to escape from the compulsory draft and there applied to the police academy after which he worked as a police officer until 1955. After passing the high school teacher’s license examination in 1955, he ceased his work on the police force and worked as an art teacher at high schools in Seoul and the metropolitan area for a short period. In 1957, he organized the Modern Artists Association with Park Seobo and Chung Chang-sup and led the radical Informel Movement in Korea.

김창열 작품 Event of Night<Event of Night> 1972 / 162x162cm / Oil on canvas
1996년 파리에서 피에르 레스타나와 김창열이 같이 있는 사진Kim Tschang-Yeul and Pierre Restany, during the FIAC, in paris, 1996

Turning his attention to the international art world, he submitted his work to the 2nd Paris Biennale in 1961 and the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1965. He studied printmaking at the Art Student League in the USA from 1966 to 1968. In 1969, he participated in the Avant-Garde Festival in Paris with help from Paik Nam June. Taking advantage of this excellent opportunity, he left New York and settled in Paris.

Kim rented a stable as his atelier and a room in the village about 15km from Paris in 1970 and met his lifetime partner Martine Jillion in that period. He made an earnest debut as a painter in Europe during the presentation of his works “Event of Night” in the Salon de Mai in 1972. Ever since, he has been offering an ongoing presentation of his work with water drops. In 2004, Kim held a retrospective on his creation of work using water drops over the past 30 years at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume. Also, in Korea, he held a retrospective on his oeuvres at the Busan Museum of Art in 2009 and the Gwangju Museum of Art in 2014.