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Exhibition review: Korean Aesthetics at Albemarle Gallery

Park Seungmo: Kim Mi-na. (Bronze wire & fiberglass, 167 x 48 x 54 cm)
Park Seungmo: Kim Mi-na. (Bronze wire & fiberglass, 167 x 48 x 54 cm)

In some group exhibitions, you wonder what it is that has brought the several artists together. Not so with the current show of Korean artists at the Albemarle Gallery.

Cha Jongrye: Expose, Exposed II (Wood, 70 x 70 x 7cm) (detail)
Cha Jongrye: Expose, Exposed II (Wood, 70 x 70 x 7cm) (detail)

Lee Jae-hyo has shown at the Albermarle before, and together with Park Seungmo was included in the Albemarle’s stand at the London Art Fair back in January. The remainder of the quartet assembled by curator Tom Woo are Kim Yeon and Cha Jongrye. It is a harmonious collection, and as your eye moves from work to work common themes constantly present themselves.

The gentle contours, swirls and parallel lines in Park Seungmo’s wire sculptures were echoed repetitive metal commas of Lee Jaehyo’s work and in the layered curves of Cha Jongrye’s wood carvings; the modular style of Cha’s compositions picked up in the scintillas which make up Lee’s universe; the natural woods of Lee and Cha mirrored in Kim Yeon’s frozen slices of nature; the stillness and peace of Kim’s work returning in the restfulness and meditation of Park’s pensive buddha and snoozing nude.

Kim Yeon: Waterside III (resin & pebbles, 10 x 180 x 30cm) (detail)
Kim Yeon: Waterside III (resin & pebbles, 10 x 180 x 30cm) (detail)

While you can enjoy the interplay between the different artists, each is easy to enjoy on their own merits. One is always drawn to sit by water, and Kim Yeon‘s limpid pools of resin transport you to a woodland glade. The yellowness of the resin enhances the colours of the pebbles, while Golden Bridge playfully creates stepping stones across the floor.

Cha Jongrye creates surreal, fantasy landscapes with her intricate woodwork, raising the wood into soft peaks like meringues, crafting a mushroom forest, or sculpting canyons out of jigsaw-like modules.

The first work to greet you as you descend the stairs to the lowern gallery at the Albemarle is Park Seungmo‘s Banagsayusang, a tribute, in aluminium wire, to the bronze Pensive Bodhisattva statue, Korea’s National Treasure No. 83. Park’s work captures some of the quietude of the original, and despite the use of fairly thick gauge wire is able to capture a lot of the detail in the folds of the bodhisattva’s robes, the isobars of the wire following their own course independently of the cloth.

In the middle of the floor is a Bicycle, wrapped Cristo-style in wire, revealing unexpected shapes and curves in the vehicle’s structure. Up against the wall sleeps a recumbent Yu Hyeon Jeong, wrapped in somewhat coarser chain-like wire but nevertheless at peace, while in the corner is a bronze Kim Mi Na, standing almost prayerfully like Gormley’s Ecce Homo, but less monumental, more approachable and human. Like all Park’s work on show, the sculpture is life size. Kim Mi Na stands at five foot six inches, not making any particular statement, maybe in a humble way asking you to appreciate the curves and swirls of wire which fashion the curves and soft bulges of her body.

Korean Aesthetics runs at the Albemarle Gallery until 27 June 2009


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