Now that HADA Contemporary has found its own space in Bethnall Green, it’s good that Albemarle continues to offer space to other collaborators with Korean connections.
Jeong Woojae was born in Korea in 1983. He has a BA in Fine Art at Chugye University and an MA in Fine Art from Hong-Ik University.
Jeong’s paintings are charming and playful expressions of the bond between humans and their animals. At first glance, they might appear to be a straightforward celebration of their animal subject, yet the works go beyond mere realism – a spell Jeong is keen to shatter with the playful reversal in the size of his figures. For Jeong, each ingredient in his composition has a symbolic resonance; his animal compositions are the vocabulary through which he addresses a particular contemporary malaise.
Concerned by the increasingly unfeeling nature of our fast-paced society, Jeong maintains that humanity needs to rekindle our former nature and embrace a kind of purity of state – something that continues to exist in our animals.
As is evident from his inversion of scale and compositional importance, Jeong is keen to explore the complementary nature of the relationship between humans and animals, and to express the dual roles that both partners enjoy as carer and cared-for at once. Although outwardly the relationship between pet and owner is one of human superiority, each animal provides its owner with a source of comfort, meeting the basic human need for friendship and affection. Jeong’s work attempts to address the inner human contradiction that comes with owning an animal – at once it evidences our emotional insecurity and need for support, and yet it simultaneously resolves this craving, providing the healing and solace that makes us stronger. For Jeong, the prevailing emotional emptiness of modern society enhances the importance of these relationships, inflating or reliance on them and allowing them to be hyper-realised. In other imagery, the magnified size of the dog might feel menacing, yet Jeong’s painting it is clearly celebrated as protector and guardian.
Jeong uses the character of the girl in his paintings, poised in adolescence, to mirror his own self. Caught between the dependency of childhood and self-assuredness of adulthood, she encapsulates the artist’s own anxieties about the burgeoning responsibilities and anxieties of independence. Working from photographs of actual locations in Seoul, the specificity of the backgrounds anchor these scenes in the real world, yet their deserted nature ensures that the focus of the composition is always on the bond between the subjects.
A painter of exquisite technique, Jeong’s work is remarkable for the delicacy of his colours and the mastery of his brushstrokes. His incredible deployment of light becomes a literal expression of the warmth of the fellowship between the girl and her dog.
Ko Am was born in Gunsan, Korea in 1971 and trained in sculpture at Accademia di belle Arti di Brera in Italy in 2006.
Tactile and inviting, Ko’s work is paradoxical – appearing simultaneously solid yet afloat, heavy yet buoyant. The hard, cold nature of metal is tempered and reformed by a unique addition: the organic, weightlessness of air. Each of the individual squares within the structures is air-blown by hand to become, in fact, an inflated, three-dimensional ‘cushion’. As such, metal becomes the medium through which Ko expresses softness, and the pieces possess a duality of form; the solidity of their substantial exterior is balanced by the delicacy of each of these minute, private pockets.
Ko’s work is an attempt to express how a lack of communication in society has led people to retreat into their private spaces, making interaction more difficult. For Ko, the character of metal is similar to ourselves living in contemporary society; in softening the appearance of this urban material, Ko wants to retrieve the other face behind the cynicism of urban people and allow them to reconnect. There is a tension in Ko’s work between repetition and variety – mirroring this same balance within the individual, who can be both fastidious and unyielding as well as flexible and spontaneous.
His first solo show in the UK, Ko has enjoyed previous solo exhibitions in Seoul and Tokyo, alongside extensive exhibitions in Italy.