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Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Crossfields: Young Korean artists at the KCC

Crossfields KCC image

Claire O’Connell was among the crowds at the opening of Crossfields: the KCC’s latest show.

This was the launch of “Crossfields”, a new exhibition at the KCC showcasing the work of 23 young Koreans who are all promising artists, architects, illustrators, photographers and designers. All the artists have studied in London at some point and were carefully selected by the KCC to exhibit their work in what is billed as their largest exhibition of young Korean artistic talent so far.


The evening began in the way that most of my attendances at Korean events in London do – doing a mad dash from darkest Surrey into London, and then tearing across the rush hour tube for a 6.30pm start. The KCC was pretty chaotic by 6.45pm and filling up quickly with a young, hip, artistic crowd who didn’t seem at all bothered by the claustrophobic conditions, looking effortlessly cool and sipping wine.

There was a great variety of work on display, from photography, to sculpture, some serene, some angry and violent; this was truly a mixed bag of delights.

Director Choi gave an introduction to what was in fact his last event as director, before he hands over the reins. He said it was his pleasure to promote talented Korean artists in the UK, and for those chosen, he hopes that London will become their home from home. He congratulated the impact that Korean artists are having on the art scenes in Europe and America and was pleased that the KCC could share that success.

Following this, we were treated to a fashion show of some incredible pieces created especially for the exhibition, and featuring designs inspired by various historic themes. “The Outing” by Kate Yun Ju Ko is a striking multi coloured mini dress, which could almost be straight out of the 60s, but is in fact a modern interpretation of old Korean street costume from the 19th century, when regulations on a woman’s outdoor clothing were restrictive. One of the men’s pieces featured a darker theme with Lee Hyun Shick’s “OzumCage” inspired a contraption which, way back when, used to be fitted to the heads of children who routinely wet the bed. This “winnow” as it was called was believed to shoo away evil spirits. Creepy.

Of course it’s so subjective reviewing an art exhibition so I have to be forgiven for bringing my own interests and prejudices to this.

Yoon Jungu: Snow Project (2009)
Yoon Jungu: Snow Project (2009)

There were a number of exhibits which for me made a particular impact. In terms of video, in the auditorium area Yoon Jungu’s film of a New Malden level crossing during this year’s snowy winter played on and on, the continuous flashing lights in the night time snow, followed by the falling barriers, then quiet, and then the train, then the barriers going up, and so on – it was all so peaceful, I must have sat in there for 15 minutes.

Kim Dong Yoon: Roundabout (2009) Digital C Type
Kim Dong Yoon: Roundabout (2009) Digital C Type

I was quite blown away by the photographic art of Kim Dong Yoon whose digital C-type photography was, he told me, produced by taking many pictures, scanning them and then overlaying them. The effect was complex, dark and foreboding scenes, all of which were enchanting. There were almost elements of technical drawing within them, which may, I suppose, be reflective of Kim Dong Yoon’s engineering background. I was so taken with “Roundabout” that I kept going back to it and even checked the price. I wasn’t the only one admiring it.

Choi Anna: Portrait of a Dinosaur with a bead necklace (2009). Acrylic and oil on canvas, 245 x 170 cm
Choi Anna: Portrait of a Dinosaur with a bead necklace (2009). Acrylic and oil on canvas, 245 x 170 cm

By way of complete contrast, Choi Anna’s “A Portrait of a Dinosaur with Bead Necklaces” was particularly fun. This acrylic and oil on canvas work depicts an abstract and ugly child-like line drawing of a dinosaur splashed with bright swathes of lime green and round pink dots. In the guide book, Anna explains that her drawings “are only going to be properly seen if we silence the voice of reason and look at them through our closed eyes. They will tell us things we did not know about ourselves; we will find truth in the unfamiliar and suppressed. Then we will open our eyes and they will revert to their monstrous condition”.

Ku Hyeyoung performs
Ku Hyeyoung performs

One problem was that, with this particular piece, and so many others, one needs to be able to stand back and look at something with out shifting from left to right to see past those in the way, or ducking to avoid a plate of oncoming kimbap. There were just too many people. The fact that the KCC managed to fill its capacity so easily is a testament to both enthusiasm for Korean art and, so a rumour went, the power of Facebook! I would very much like to go and have another browse on another day.

There was also some performance art to experience, with one lady trussed up in a dress which looked like it had been constructed (albeit cleverly) with bin bags, and miming dramatically to a track of a man singing. It was quite hypnotic.

There just isn’t space to talk about the other exhibits here, but suffice to say this is a very special exhibition and should not be missed.

Crossfields continues at the KCC until 12 September
Ku Hyeyoung performs at Goldsmiths on 12 August


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