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Korean art: Unstoppable forces and immovable objects

Still Dynamics: The Korean Contemporary Art Show
The Jerwood Space, 14-20 December

Review by Beccy Kennedy

Yujin Kang: Swimming PoolThe serene setting of the Jerwood Space provides the perfect offset for the vivid works of eleven Korean artists. With the exception of Kira Kim’s light installation, I Love U, and Sangjun Roh’s miniature, cardboard people, the works are surprisingly painterly for a contemporary art show, whilst being diverse in their approach to 2D. Yujin Kang’s dazzling, dexterously painted scenes of swimming pools, including one which lurks, glimmering beneath the hatched yellow lines of a road, reflecting their shadow, (left) particularly stand out. Kang blends precision with fluidity, realism with random imagery, and beautifully captures the theme of the exhibition, staying still whilst moving forward, the contrasting yet harmonious relationship between tranquillity and energy.

Seunghee Kang paints on metal or colourfully embroiders highly busy, dystopian scenes of a misguided modernity. Her caricature styled, figurated vistas evocatively sit somewhere between Spitting Image and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The meticulation is awesome and the impact is big. They provide an alternative to the more abstract paintings, such as Francesca Cho’s intense but enlightening oils and Chulwon Kwak’s peaceful, shadowy acrylics. Sea Hyun Lee: Between RedSea Hyun Lee’s oil on linen literati style, classic mountain-scapes, Between Red, (right) provides the only obvious reference to “the East” through its form and content. Yet the archetypical traditional Korean/Chinese style painting is transmogrified through Lee’s delicate but persistent application of solely red tones, creating an impressive and somewhat unsettling unexpected surrealism. Korea’s traditional pictorial history is immovable whilst cultural experimentation will always be unstoppable; Lee brings the two forces of past and present together1.

If you’re not a fan of contemporary art, you may be surprised by the degree of figurative painting at this show. Amongst the sensitive and vibrant Expressionist abstractions, romantic landscapes, soulful still-lives and cardboard sculptures, there should be something at Still Dynamics to activate your cultural taste buds and something to leave you standing still in your tracks, contemplating the enduring magnitude of fine art. Be dynamic and get yourself along to it now because the art works will dismantle and disappear to other parts of the world, before you can say “2007”!


  • Jerwood Space press release. (Jerwood Space is at 171 Union Street, London, SE1 0LN)
  • Beccy Kennedy’s home page
  1. The choice of words in the title to this article – Unstoppable forces and immovable objects – is taken from Iain Bank’s Walking On Glass, first published in 1985 []

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