Korean art has become the new vogue, as it continues to intrigue and impress the art world. Traditionally, Korean art was about harmonizing with nature and refraining from expressing in extremities. But with the current Eastern-Western fusion wave, a new narrative is beginning to form. Whether it’s the 2012, ‘Gangnam Style’ or the recent Oscar winning movie ‘Parasite’ by Bong Ho, Korean art is everywhere. From incorporating their native art references with the ever-changing western one to starting their own movement, Korean artists are consistently challenging the conventional boundaries. Here are some outstanding Korean visual artists that have recently caught our eye.
Generally very prolific and highly-appreciated in the US, some of the selected Korean Artists are independent, such as Hera Kim, Minjin Kang, and Hyun Jung Ji; all the others are represented by a gallery:
Hyun Ae Kang, Kim Seungwoo, Kim Jeong Yeon, Krista Kim, Cha Yun Sook & Hayeon are represented by BOCCARA Art Gallery; and Yang Jong Yong is represented by Vivian Choi Gallery.
FUSION AND REPETITION
Hyun Ae Kang
Born in Seoul, Kang is a famous second generation ‘Dansaekhwa’ or ‘monochrome painting’ artist. Her work follows a Buddhist and Taoist ideology where she creates abstract paintings and prays before initiating each painting process. She uses the canvas as a surface which is to be multi-layered with meticulously applied, thick paint strokes. The viscosity of the texture and the methodology is reminiscent of her sculptural practices. Her color choices and strokes, create a vibrant, energetic sensation, much like Divisionism, and the laborious process of paint application is meant to remind one of the painful Buddhist meditation that is practiced repeatedly in order to attain Nirvana. Having received recognition in 1993, Kang’s works are housed in several prominent museums. Her work can also be seen at an upcoming retrospective at Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center in Anaheim, California, in 2021.
Seungwoo painstakingly assembles hundreds of thousands of coins and buttons to create hyper- realistic human body figures and sculptures. His life-sized figurines and flowing geometric patterns are made to communicate the question in his mind – ‘Art is Money, or Money is Art?’ These remarkable, detailed sculptures are so hypnotic that they make one temporarily forget that they are made out of a token of monetary value. As the coins themselves are assembled with a lot of hard work, the sculpture itself becomes reminiscent of the phrase- ‘hard earned money’, and its form comments upon the human desire to acquire it.
Koo’s works are a reflection and commentary of her life in New York city. Her work entails a combination of the human body and pig’s head displayed in various setups. Having received her Bachelor’s degree in Sculpture from Kyungpook National University, South Korea, Koo went on to experiment with the fusion between the Eastern and Western cultures. The idea of Good fortune (Eastern) and greed (Western) are two very different connotations of the pigs to her, and are the central motif in her work. She often uses either black and white, or vibrant colors, in a vast array of mediums to execute her ideas. The whimsical quality and the numerous pigs in her work, invites the viewer to indulge and investigate them further.
A NATURAL CONNECT
Kim Jeong Yeon
Yeon’s sculptures and installations are an amalgamation of the Korean concept of nature based energies, expressionism, calligraphy and conceptual art. She often uses naturally found materials such as marble and wood, and executes her work in minimalistic patterns and colors. Her installations are often dreamlike, representing an inner sanctuary and sense of security. Their enormous scale envelopes the viewer and provides a sense of comfort and connection with the natural elements attached to them. Her sculptures have a serene rhythm and flow that instantly helps one immerse themselves into harmony with Mother Earth.
Cha Yun Sook & Hayeon
This mother- daughter duo create textile and paper-based artworks that pay a homage to their Korean culture and celebrate human connection with the natural world. Yun Sook grows the herbs that are used to dye the Hanji material that are incorporated into their work and also uses these inks as healing remedies. The duo conduct performance acts, where they often cut and shape their fabrics into natural motifs, like flowers, in order to depict a mesmerizing natural landscape, or use it to spontaneously clothe themselves or the viewer with their dyed fabrics to make an exclusive dress that symbolizes nature’s relationship with oneself. Their installations are designed to mimic their intent, so their work often flows from the walls, over the ground, re-creating a peaceful environment.
A NEW MOVEMENT
Kim’s work is a response to the LED lights that are exposed to us through the various devices that we constantly use. Her intrigue in the dialogue between digital technology and human perception was so strong that she has founded a revolutionary art movement called ‘Techism’. Her works are often based on digital algorithms, which result in bright and deeply saturated hues. Based in Toronto, she has exhibited her work all over the globe and has now collaborated with the fashion brand Lanvin. Her work offers a fresh perspective and makes us question the way we see our mundane electronics.
There are several other artists that have also intrigued us – Hera Kim uses drip like patterns to create abstract imageS that help her express and process her pain. She treats the painting process as a form of repetitive prayer, that allows her to ‘fossilize’ her emotions. We loved Yang Jong Yong surreal work which depicts ordinary objects with unusual alterations, that defy physical limitations and are placed in an alternative space. Artist Minjin Kang experiments with hyperreal colors and minimalistic styles to create a fantasy world that is viewed through an architectural lens. On an illustrative note, we liked Hyun Jung Ji‘s vibrant works that depict faceless human figurines and tangled lines which represent her childhood journey.