London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

De-familiarisation at Nolias Gallery

News of a one-week group exhibition in Nolias Gallery in Southwark.

Exhibition notes below are © the exhibition’s curator Anna miyoung Kim


Hun Kim; Changhwan Park; Gunwoo Shin; Sangyoon Yoon
Curated by Anna miyoung Kim
10th Sep 2009 – 15th Sep 2009
Opening event: Wed 9th Sep 2009 6-8pm

“The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.”
– Viktor Shklovsky

“Defamiliarization” is the artistic device first coined in 1917 by Viktor Shklovsky. It forces the audience to see common things in an unfamiliar or strange way in order to reinforce perception of the familiar. In other words, the concept emphasizes paradoxically the perception of commonality by rejecting the commonality itself. It has been initiated by the Russian formalists in literature through framed language to distinguish poetic language from everyday language.

Later on, ‘Defamiliarization’ has been developed in epic theatre by playwriter Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) to enlighten the viewers. The ‘Distancing effect’ is a dramaturgy which is rooted from ‘Defamiliarization’, to make the viewers not involve in or not sympathize emotionally into the play. It makes audience realise that they are watching the representation of reality (not reality), so that they keep critical and analytical attitude rather than accepting passively.

‘Defamiliarization’ was an important artistic presentation in 20th century art such as Dada (1916-1922). Dadaists adopted ready-made objects to destroy the border between art and daliy life. For instance, ‘Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ is rather mass-manufactured object than representation of art. By adding his signature on it, he converted the object (a urinal) to an art work.

In the Post modern art, ‘Defamiliarization’ has been further developed in Neo-expressionism, Pop art, Conceptual art, and Media art, etc.

This exhibition borrows the broad meaning of “Defamiliarization” as an artistic device to explore its function and purpose as well as how “Defamiliarization” influenced current contemporary artists to portray their artistic inspiration.

Yoon Sang-yoon: Empty Set 3 (2009)
Yoon Sang-yoon: Empty Set 3 (2009)

Sangyoon Yoon employs unusual elements and fabricates them in his paintings which make audience feel and understand ‘strangeness’ in fictive circumstance. The ‘strangeness’ implies metaphor of tension which he has confronted in new society. Individual’s movement from high context[1] to low context society, from Far East Asia to Europe, he started thinking of meaning of geographical and political territory and its society and individuals. His notion of territory is marked in contrast to those societies he has experienced. In which, individuals’ identities are characterized by their society’s nature. Thus he seeks his peculiarity through the device; ‘defamiliarization’ (strangeness for tension) and evokes his existence as a new individual of global society.

Kim Young-hun (Hun Kim): The Others (2007)
Kim Young-hun (Hun Kim): The Others (2007)

Hun Kim’s works may fall into the same category (presenting familiar with unfamiliar) with Sangyoon’s. However, what makes Hun Kim’s works distinctive is selection of oriental drawing technique with oil colour. A fluid stroke with black water-based ink in oriental art creates colour saturation and brightness with an effect of spread and absorption of water, which in the end form static content. Hum Kim employs this fluid stroke but with western material; oil colour, which cannot create original effects of spread and absorption of water. This unmatched ‘form’ (fluid stroke plus oil paints) may well fit to create unstable contents, which belong neither oriental painting nor western painting like artist confusing his’s identity. To present ‘strangeness’, if Sangyoon Yoon de-familiarized the contents in his art works but kept his technique consistent, on the other hand, Hun Kim de-familiarized the technique itself.

Park Chang-hwan: Floating Fragments (2008)
Park Chang-hwan: Floating Fragments (2008)

Changhwan Park’s paintings represent the disparity between the optimized Korean forced by modern society and the real being suffering from frustration and alienation. The blurred back image in his painting shows an illusion of modern society which drives rash acceptance of Western culture in Korea. Meantime, conflicts occur between the Confucian tradition and the Individualism due to lack of pre-associating process. In which traditional relationship of family has been destroyed and each individual is suffering from it. Individuals’ frustration and alienation are shown in the form of fragments in his painting. The double layered image with fragements is delicately devised to deliver critical and objective ways communicating the reality to viewers rather than passively accepting the illusion. Like the ‘Distancing effect’ by Bertolt Brecht, the fragments consequently lead the audience to be a consciously critical observer.

Shin Gun-woo: Landscape Trinity (2008)
Shin Gun-woo: Landscape Trinity (2008)

Gun-woo Shin refers the attention of everyday life in his art. He reconstructs images in his painting by juxtaposing his consciousness and unconsciousness from his mundane life. Like Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’, he appropriates images from tabloids, TV programs, posters, and advertisements as his consciousness, and brings his memory and dream as unconciousness. He delivers those images into his painting in order to create surrealistic images for the sense of ‘unfamiliar’. Through the device of representation of the surrealistic images into the reality, he awakes his senses which have been dulled in mundane routine and emphasizes the notion of everyday life.

Nolias Gallery is at 60 Great Suffolk St, London, SE1 0BL [Map]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.