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Korean artists at the Slade 2013 MA/MFA degree show: the eternal cycles of life and creation

At the various London art college degree shows, you can usually find a Korean artist or two whose work you have already seen at one or more of the galleries and group shows around town. And you’ll also find maybe one or two people you’ve missed up until now.

The main courtyard of University College London, home of the Slade School of Fine Art

At the Slade MFA / MA degree show, which LKL dropped in on before the nearby Pojagi event at the Royal Asiatic Society on 6 June, what was nice was that even where you had come across the artist before, they had a couple of surprises for you.

Sungfeel Yun has been a regular London exhibitor for a number of years. The body of work that has most frequently been exhibited has been the Cosmos, Chaos and Circulation Series (2009-2012) in which a canvas is covered by concentric circles of black iron filings or coloured epoxy. These have been the works exhibited at the KCC, at the Bargehouse and elsewhere, of which Yun says:

The vast expanse of the solar system and the micro world of atoms have something in common; both worlds rotate around the same axis. However, this link does not mean that there can be no change- since all things in the universe are to a degree always active. Furthermore, whether great or small, they are in no way moving at their own whim but in balance and reaction to one another.

Sungfeel Yun
Visitors throw iron filings into one of Sungfeel Yun’s installations: Looking at The real world from within The real world

But there is another, more recent, body of work which is less familiar (possibly because it is more difficult to install): the series entitled Looking at The real world from within The real world (2010-2012). These are three-dimensional works involving metal cones behind which are installed hidden rotating magnets, which sweep round the cone dragging with it, on the side facing the viewer, either iron filings or some ferrofluid. Each variant leaves a circular path on the surface of the cone. With the dry installations, viewers are encouraged to throw additional iron filings into the cone; and with the ferrofluid works the viewer is drawn into the piece as we try to figure out what on earth it is: it looks like a pair of black alien limpets oozing around the cone leaving a dripping trail of black paint. The camera on my mobile phone captured only a fraction of the strangeness.

Yun explains:

The universe is composed of energy.
The energy created by the electromagnetic force (Yin and Yang) circulates.
The universe repeats the cycle of creation and extinction.

Helpfully, in the Slade exhibition Yun had provided access at the side of the installation so that visitors could look at the back of the work, to see the motorised magnets rotating.

Bongsu Park
Bongsu Park’s works at the Slade 2013 MA/MFA degree show

Another familiar artist is Park Bongsu, who recently had a solo exhibition at Mokspace quickly followed by a group show in the Crypt at St Pancras Church. At the Slade degree show Park exhibited two of the video works which had been on show at Mokspace, and some engravings which were related in content to the video.

Recently, my ideas have morphed from organic matter to an examination of human construction: trace elements, outlines and memory. I have started to enjoy using square shapes as well as round forms. I am also pursuing new performance-based work. I was always fascinated by the theatre – where within the huge square of the proscenium arch – a world, a story and a life is made flesh. Contemporary dance inspires me and I am developing new ideas in conjunction with installation projects, with the aim of exploring further the place of our bodies in the world.

Bongsu Park
Detail from Bongsu Park’s REGENERATION: my liver, a new shape, inside my mother and me – showing the liver etched onto the glass panels

This new direction was evident in the Slade degree show with her work REGENERATION: my liver, a new shape, inside my mother and me. Twenty-eight glass panels are suspended in the shape of a three-dimensional moebius strip, whose projection on the floor is the sign of infinity (∞). Engraved on each panel was a mysterious pattern which Park told me was a hospital scan of her own liver. Park had an operation earlier this year in which she donated more than half of her liver to her mother. In this work she was trying to express something of the eternity of the cycle of life, whereby she was able to return life to her mother, who had given her life in the first place. It was a very effective, and very moving, installation.

Soo Hee Kim
Park of Soo Hee Kim’s installation

Elsewhere in the degree show was an unsettling  room of strangely distorted plywood furniture and various artifacts which looked as if they were made of a waxy soap (Soo Hee Kim); sculptures by Hyojung Ahn; and an installation from Ji Won Yun whose centerpiece was a comforting and snug shed into which you were encouraged to crawl to contemplate the speckled patterns painted like constellations on its darkened roof.


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