The exhibition and performance by the Korean Artists Association at the Korean Cultural Centre (Strand, London) on November 28, featured painting and displays of visual art, traditional Korean instruments and a performance of highly modern dance. The association was originally founded in 1997 by a group of Korean artists and poets to promote Korean culture in the UK.
The event, entitled Obangsaek (which refers to Korea’s five traditional colours) was very well attended, and enjoyed support from the University of Roehampton, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, the Anglo-Korean Society and the Overseas Korean Foundation.
Among the exhibition displays was ‘Unity’ (2012) a paper collage by Soon Yul Kang, President of the Korean Artists Association. It featured a sphere on a plain background, with a chequered red and blue colouring. “The Eastern concept of Yin and Yang in which balance and harmony is achieved between two complementary or seemingly opposite forces inspired my work,” she said in the KAA exhibition’s accompanying information booklet. “Through the use of the colours red and blue, I explored emptying and filling, visible and invisible in harmony and unity.” Soon Yul Kang has an MA in Textile Art from Goldsmith’s College, University of London.
Many of the exhibition’s works combined modern Western visual art with traditional Korean culture. “Ghosts of the Flowers” by Eunjung Feleppa was an oil painting on canvas, reminded me a little of the oil paintings of Monet. “When I was a child, I used to be fascinated by the repetitive patterns on Korean traditional fabrics & furniture. The moment I laid my eyes on these traditional patterns and colours which often consisted of obangsaek, I found myself wandering in this beautiful and mystical world,” she explained about her work. She has a Post compulsory PGCE from the Institute of Education in London.
I was particularly interested in “108 Agonies”, a display in a corner of the cultural centre, consisting of lit up paper boxes that looked like they formed part of a building site under construction, with a tradition Korean gong sounding in the background. One of the display’s two authors Sooyung Lee explained to me that the 108 boxes represented the 108 painful steps in Buddhism, towards eventual self realization. “This work represents the human desires who would be free from the 108 agonies by focusing on using the ‘yellow’ coloured lights, one of the five traditional Korean symbolic colours. This work attempts to explore humankind’s intrinsic agonies through the form of installation and digital work” the accompanying booklet said. Sooyung Lee has an MA in Art & Design from the Loughborough University.
Part of the exhibition was a performance of dance entitled ‘Bridging Colours’ by a group from the University of Roehampton. The performance was connected to the five traditional Korean colours of white, yellow, red, black and blue. It was a slow moving, silent dance by the young women.
There was also an impressive performance of traditional Korean music on keyboard, kayagum (a traditional Korean string instrument), flute and traditional percussion instruments. The music was composed by Jee Soo Shin, who has a Phd in music composition from the University of Southampton.