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Two faces of Korean contemporary art

Posted July. 20, 2021 07:32,   

Updated July. 20, 2021 07:32


Kim Whanki, Chun Kyung-ja, and Lee Ufan… these are the names that even those not interested in art must have heard of. A new exhibition that gives audiences the chance to see the works of famous artists, who have led Korean contemporary art, is being held in Seoul. The exhibition titled, “The two faces of Korean contemporary art: Abstract and figurative artㅡfrom Kim Hwanki to Ko Young-hoon” is being held in Insa Artplaza Gallery in Seoul from July 14. A total of 24 artists, including 11 who passed away, are participating in the exhibition. The Gallery collected 38 paintings from collectors and the artists for the exhibition.

“We have put together abstract and figurative paintings in order to examine the trend in Korean art at a time when the Korean art market is drawing attention,” said Heo Sung-mi, the director of the Gallery. In general, abstract art refers to art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality while figurative art depicts artwork that is clearly derived from real objects. The exhibition introduces 13 abstract artists, such as Kim Whanki, Kim Chang-yeol, Lee Ufan, Park Seo-bo, and Kim Tae-ho, and 11 figurative artists, including Chun Kyung-ja, Lee Wal-jong, Kim Jong-hak, Oh Ji-ho, and Ko Young-hoon.

The first painting the audiences will see when they enter the exhibition hall is “Untitled” by Kim Whan-ki. Although it is a small paintingㅡ16cm in width and 20cm in heightㅡ it grabs the audiences’ attention. To the right, the works of Lee Ufan and Kim Tae-ho radiate unique energy. “From Point (1979)” by Lee Ufan shows the process of creation and loss with dots, in which the concentration of the pigment fades from left to right. The “Internal Rhythm (2020)” by Kim Tae-ho looks as if it is a green flat-surfaced or multi-colored three-dimensional painting. He stacked several layers of paints in a grid shape and carved it with a special sculpting knife. The right side of the painting shows the uniqueness of dots, lines, sides, and colors while the left side amazes the audience with its delicate depiction and splendor.

The “Gold Fish” by Chun Kyung-ja does not depict the artist’s signature lady but its friendly colors of oriental paintings stand out. Ko Young-hoon’s “Bowl (2013),” which is placed next to “Gold Fish,” is very realistic. The depiction of the broken rim of the bowl blurs the distinction between artwork and reality. The “Hundred flowers bloom (1998)” by Kim Jong-hak depicts free-spirited yet fantastic nature, radiating the vitality breaking out of the canvas.

Although the exhibition draws distinction between abstract and figurative art, what remains in the mind of the audience in the end is the fact that all 24 artists have written history with their own methods and stories. Just like Kim Heung-soo declared in 1977 that “An artwork becomes complete only when figurativeness and abstraction coexist in it.” The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, will be held until July 27.