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Shinwook Kim: Korean Folk Painting in Photography at Mokspace

The current exhibition at Mokspace, which runs till 28 May, is an interesting take on Korean folk painting, blending contemporary techniques and technology with traditional materials.

Shinwook Kim’s theme is Photographic Images of Fish and Shellfish in Korean Classical Painting. He aims to recreate the traditional folk-painting genre of Eo Hae Do (어해도, 魚蟹圖) which are paintings of fish and shellfish.

“Traditional fish paintings involve many symbolic meanings.” says Kim. “For example, a fish jumping up towards a waterfall is interpreted as abundance and worldly success after overcoming difficulties.”

“The paintings used to be in newly-married couples’ rooms because two fish swimming idyllically symbolise conjugal harmony,” he continues. “Fish also represent fecundity as they produce many spawn. In the past, young children and infants died easily for various reasons including illness so people used to wish for their offspring’s health with fish. People also used to believe that potbellied fish with huge eyes would protect them from thieves at night with their big open eyes, so pictures of them used to be hung on their built-in closets.”

Kim’s first project was to shoot studies of individual freshwater fish.

Shinwook Kim: Daenongaengye (Ussurian Bullhead), 40x80cm, c print, 2006
Shinwook Kim: Daenongaengye (Ussurian Bullhead), 40x80cm, c print, 2006

The second project, which is the main subject of the exhibition at Mokspace, is to capture photographs of fish in motion; then create a composition in image editing software. This is the part of the creative process which uses modern technology. Then Kim steps back in time, printing the image on traditional Korean paper made out of the same tree whose sap is used in lacquer work. The paper is called 옻지.

Shinwook Kim - Eohaedo

The exhibition captures a wide range of fish and shellfish / crustaceans, including a rare fish well-known to Korean film buffs: the Shiri. And much of the work is highly affordable.

Kim’s third project of freshwater fish is ‘Fishing’ (2010), a 7 min 10 sec single channel video, which is on display in the basement of the Mokspace exhibition. Kim explains the evolution of the project thus:

As I overcame my physical weakness with the action of finding, checking, and shooting freshwater fish, I reorganised fish and shellfish which is one of folk paintings that has been providing a feeling of safety with various meanings and hopes to Koreans for a long time. Through the work, I added my personal wish on the original and worldly meaning of painting of fish and shellfish in photography, Eo Hae Do.

‘Fishing’ is a video clip focusing on catching freshwater fish itself. The activity of releasing fish after discovering, collecting, and shooting them shows how I overcome my weakness. Catching fish represents a defensive behaviour and symbolic meaning of possession to fulfill my soft spot. I only used nets instead of a fish hook because things I could obtain would be damaged if fish got hurt. I dream of common benefit with fishes through release of them after catching them as careful as possible.

Here’s the official exhibition announcement from Mokspace:

Shinwook Kim : Korean Folk Painting in Photography

Mokspace is delighted to present the first exhibition of the work of Korean photographer, Shinwook Kim. He is currently studying BA Art & Practice at Goldsmiths College in London. His photographic motifs come from Korean traditional fish paintings of the 17th-19th century. In making this series, he re-visualizes the beautiful stories and dreams which are embodied in traditional Korean folk art.

Exhibition Dates : 11 May – 28 May 2012 / Opening Hours : 11am – 6pm, Every day

Mokspace is at 33 Museum Street, London, WC1A 1LH, in front of the British Museum
+44 (0) 20 7637 8880 | [email protected] |

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