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Waiting with Dae-hun Kwon

On visiting Rachmaninoffs gallery in Hackney, the main exhibits are initially familiar to those who know of Dae Hun Kwon’s (권대훈) work from his installations at I-MYU, the Bargehouse and elsewhere: white images of bare trees in a forest created by the shadows cast by tiny tabs illuminated by a slowly changing pattern of halogen lights.

In a larger than usual installation at the Bargehouse last March, Kwon experimented with making a mysterious face appear among the trees as the light changed (see the video here). This work is a further exploration of Kwon’s theme of seeing regularity, and often human faces, in the seeming randomness of the bare tracery of a tree’s branches:

Dae Hun Kwon - Shapes to be found in trees' branches
Dae Hun Kwon – Shapes to be found in trees’ branches

WaitingIn the Rachmaninoffs installations, we see a further variation. As the direction of the lights changes, we see a group of ghostly individuals emerge. Invisible with the light coming from one direction, as the light shines on them from above, the figures make their presence felt. They are not threatening, but simply lonely and melancholy. In a final change of lighting, a solo halogen spotlights a single figure, waiting, as if in the final scene of a play.

The lonely characters are echoed in a collection of intimate pencil sketches of people simply standing, waiting. They look at their watches. They stand slightly slouched. A mother comforts a child who has grown irritable with the delay. They are all wrapped against the cold. We are not told what they are waiting for, or how long they will remain. The viewer is drawn into a feeling of community with these solitary figures and lonely couples.

The press release from Rachmaninoffs explains further:

Asked what—if any—difference working in London made to him, Korean artist Dae Hun Kwon answered: ‘Well, I enjoy the pace of life in London. In Korea things move very quickly: buildings shoot up (he makes a rapid movement of his hand from his knee to above his head)—in London I have time to make things properly’.

In his solo exhibition at Rachmaninoff’s, Dae Hun Kwon has installed two groups of drawings and three boxed light pieces. Untitled, 2009 is an arrangement on one wall of thirty five pencil drawings on A4 sheets of paper. The drawings depict (mostly solitary) figures caught in the characteristic postures of waiting—bottoms slightly sag, hands are perhaps in pockets or mid fidget. There is planned vertical and horizontal pattern of variation in the colour of sheets, between cream and white, the line of drawing is quite even, quite consistent. The sheets are lit exclusively by varying levels of transmitted light from the three other wall-mounted works in the space: Still in the forest I, 2009; Still in the forest II, 2009; and Another forest, 2008. These three, large works, consist of fabricated boxes set (like theatrical dressing-table mirrors) with halogen lights (LEDs in Another forest) angled and timed to produce change effects as they light their own contents, panels set with configurations of very many framer’s pins. These larger works are augmented by a set of four drawings, again Untitled, 2009. This group represents the (probably untranslatable) concept of a slow switching—between stages in a classical conception of degree of composure or ‘happiness’, or mood.

Dae Hun Kwon was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1972. He was educated at the Slade School and College of Fine Art, SNU, Seoul. He has taken part in a number of group exhibitions as well as performances in London. In 2008 he showed in ‘Your Mind’s Eye’ at Seoul Museum of Art. This is his second solo exhibition with Rachmaninoff ’s.

Dae Hun Kwon - Still in the Forest
Dae Hun Kwon – Still in the Forest

One installation stands out from the rest as rather different: a smaller light sculpture of a view of the City from the south side of the Thames. St Paul’s, the Gherkin and the NatWest Tower are outlined against the sky. This particular work is somehow less successful than the forest works: lit by LEDs rather than halogens, there is less opportunity to cast well-defined shadows, while the quality of the light is bluer, not having the warmth of the halogen work illustrated above. The work is, however, more affordable and less energy-hungry, and shows another potential new direction for for Kwon.

Waiting continues at Rachmaninoffs until 4 April.

Unit 106, 301 Kingsland Road, London, E8 4DS
telephone: +44(0)20 7275 0757 web:
Gallery hours: Wednesday to Saturday 12-6pm and by appointment

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