A quick tour of the Royal College of Art degree show last weekend showed just how many Korean artists and designers there are in London. I had gone along to see the work of a handful of friends whose work I had got to know through various exhibitions over the past couple of years, and was overwhelmed to find that around 8% – at least 46 at a rough count – of the nearly 600 exhibitors were Korean.
In the Kensington campus were the designers and visual communication graduates. And in the vehicle and product design categories Koreans were particularly well represented – five of the 30 designers coming from the Land of Morning Calm. There were gorgeous-looking concepts for BMW (Vera Park), Maserati (Yun Ji-won) and Bentley (a sleek retro-curvaceous design from Hwang Hoe-young) and a more quirky design from Jung In-kook whose wheels looked as if they were inspired by dancheong decoration on Korea’s palaces. Hwang Minwoo’s concept meanwhile focused on the “death-cycle” of a car, ensuring his vehicle was lightweight and components could be easily recycled.
I didn’t have time to hunt out the 14 or so Koreans who were graduating in the other design disciplines in the Darwin Building, heading instead the Stevens Building to see the work of Kim Suhee – a fun musical typewriter which you were encouraged to play. It was a strange experience, hitting the keys of such “antique” technology, seeing and feeling your fingers having a real physical impact – like going back to a tracker-action organ after years of playing a Yamaha synthesiser.
If the graduates in the Vehicle Design department would have been pleased if someone told them they had come up with a killer design, Kim Ingeun inadvertently took the accolade literally. His sound installation, Stampede Behaviour, had managed to exterminate most of a nest of ants through its sonic loop of low-frequency pounding of animals’ hooves. In response to these fatal consequences, Kim had changed the sound loop to a higher frequency, and a couple of ants could be seen timidly wandering around when I visited.
South of the river is the Battersea campus, where ceramics, metalwork, sculpture, painting, photography and textiles were exhibited. In the Dyson Building some lovely prints from Hyoi Kim and an imaginative installation of sail-like knits from Park Ji-hee should be snapped up by interior and fashion designers, while upstairs the slightly disturbing work by Hwang Hye-jung blurred the boundaries between the textile and sculpture disciplines.
In the Sackler building Kim Shinwook was showing a projection of a family portrait onto a wall of ice. According to the commentary accompanying his work, the family is his own, and one of the members is terminally ill with cancer. “As he projects his own family portraits onto sheets of ice, their figures and colours, which once seemed so fixed, slowly contort and dissolve.”
Kim Daewoong presented a series of food-related still lives (including a kimchi cabbage) entitled Beyond Sustenance, and as part of the installation included a mysterious parcel wrapped in a gold-coloured bojagi. Lee Seul-ki presented a gathering of cowled figures as if a monastic chapter had been summoned.
Over in the Hester Road Gallery Kim Sun-ae was displaying some of her work inspired by the Staffordshire potters of the 18th Century, while in goldsmithing, silversmithing, metalwork & jewellery Nam Youjin was displaying a set of mirrors which dressed the viewer in ornate pearl necklaces.
I still managed to miss several of the graduates’ works, but there’s time to go back this weekend. The show finishes on Sunday 29 June.