The fourth 4482 group show by young Korean artists in London was bigger than ever this year – to such an extent that the organisers managed to secure some overspill gallery space on the ground floor of the OXO tower building, across the courtyard from the main Bargehouse warehouse. This overspill gallery space was very welcome, and less crowded than the sometimes cramped rooms of the older building.
As in previous years there was an almost bewildering array of different media on display, and artists who have had a fair amount of gallery time alongside relative newcomers. With sixty artists to choose from any visitor was bound to find something she liked.
As the brochure suggested, there were connections to be made, reflecting the interconnecting root systems of the rhizome – the theme of the exhibition. Here’s LKL’s own attempt to draw out some of those connections.
Anything obviously Asian?
Possibly surprisingly, given the fact that 60 artists from Korea were exhibiting, there was very little by way of explicit reference to Korea or the East. Perhaps the most obvious works were by Ahn Jin-kyun – his photographs which address the theme of paying respects to parents and ancestors, intermingled with references to Plato’s legend of the Cave – and by Nadia Kyung Chae – her ink wall scrolls which played with X-rays as an artistic medium but which looked fairly traditional in style until you looked more closely. A more personal reference to the artist’s disorienting experience in a foreign land was Bae Chan-hyo’s Rapunzel from his Existing in Costume series.
Attention to detail
Arguably influenced by the literati tradition of ink painting was a series of very intricate line drawings using either pencil or ball pen. Sometimes abstract, sometimes representational, they all represented a significant investment of time and attention to detail.
No contemporary art show would be complete without some video work. The most striking were the videos by Je Baak of funfair attractions at night, which took on a menacing robotic atmosphere. The pastel-coloured clouds of Kang Seok-yeong looked peaceful, but the appearance of a floating turd had me confused.
Spirit & space – work you’d be happy to live with
Less confusing were works by Chun Joo-hee and Choi Mi-young. Choi’s semi-abstract paintings resembling pictures of the horsehead nebula greeted you as you entered the building, reflecting her use of spiritually symbolic elements in her work. Chun’s work, which I had cause to admire last year, also consciously express a religious message. Layers of translucent acrylic build up on the canvas, while thin black lines weave calligraphically across the surface.
There was a certain amount of experimentation with media: Ku Hyeyoung had an installation made of used coffee grounds, while Baek Soo-yeoun addressed questions of mortality by making models of his own head using of pine pollen powder, rice powder and glucose – over time the heads gradually rot and decay. Bae Youn-joo created a chandelier fuelled by human hair, in a political statement about humans being trapped in “the enchanting yet oppressive capitalistic system”, and yes the results were rather enchanting.
Park Hyung-jin’s chosen material was metallic confetti, which he used to create portraits of famous figures including Queen Elizabeth.
Blink and you’ll miss it
The work of some of the artists intentionally blended into the background, and if you weren’t careful you missed them entirely. I confess to not paying attention to Park Jin-hee’s work at the entrance to the show: I thought it was some plywood left over from a construction project. Kwon Soon-hak’s super hi-res photos of a bare wall after the closing of an art exhibition, with hyper-realistic nail-holes and blobs of blu-tak, had one wanting to scratch the surface of the photo to see if they were real or not; but unfortunately many people were walking past looking for something more colourful.
A semi-derelict warehouse is an ideal venue for Hur Shan’s work which often involves the installation of broken pillars or damaged walls often with a surprise object embedded within. At 4482 the first work you saw (if you missed the plywood at the entrance) was one of Hur’s pillars with a basketball revealed inside.
Found objects, (or a load of rubbish…)
Anything can be art nowadays. “Locco” Lee Jung-wook’s sculpture of random found objects stacked in the sort of wheeled cage used to stack supermarket shelves dominated the entrance, next to Hur Shan’s pillar. “I spot an object from a random place,” says Lee. “I execute my work subjectively and its decision abides by the rule of pure intuition, then I exhibit the work so the spectators and I can react to it. In other words, I do art.” Upstairs was another random collection of objects assembled by Joo Sangeun into an altar to Trainspotting actor Ewan McGregor.
Continuing the supermarket theme Maeng Il-sun had a nocturnal photograph of an urban fox with a Tesco bag, while Lee Yeon had created a tent made of yellow plastic bags in one corner of a room, and in the opposite corner had placed a chair for contemplating it, in the middle of a dangling forest of red plastic bags.
Amongst all the work which challenged you to think about the nature of art, there were some works whose very subject matter challenged you. Possibly the most “straight” item in the whole show was a photographic portrait by Moon Se-jin, part of her Women in Modern Society series. The subject stands slightly demurely, but looking you straight in the eye and you get the impression she’s a person not to be trifled with.
Mok Jung-wook’s Urban Topography Research series captures unloved buildings at the moment of their demolition, while the multi-layered black and white photographs of Kim Dong-yoon have a ghostly feel. Won Seo-yeoung’s photo of a photo of a chair initially looks simple, but the cables which seem to restrain the chair cause you to question your perspective and give the composition a surreal feeling.
I’ve only had the time and the space to mention fewer than half of the artists participating (apologies to the other half). The show was only on for 4 days: the Bargehouse is an expensive place to hire and the cost of hiring the space is in part provided by the artists themselves. The exhibition is a massive logistical exercise, to install works by 60 artists, but it seems to have become an annual feature in London’s exhibition scene, and the contributors change year on year as student visas run out and new students appear in London’s colleges. We look forward to seeing the next generation next year, and to seeing some of this year’s artists making a name for themselves in solo shows.
The 4th 4482 exhibition was at the Bargehouse, SE1, 24-27 February 2011. Curator: Gyeyeon Park (www.gyeyeonpark.com) | Artist Leaders: Jiho WON, Seoyeoung WON | Exhibition management: Chan-Hyo BAE | Assistant Curators: Songeui BAEK, Camilla MASON | Advisory Committee: Anna Miyoung KIM, Stephanie Seungmin KIM | Catalogue and Poster Design: A Young KIM | Website: Hyemin PARK | Supported by Korean Cultural Centre UK