Shine Artists present their annual Korean Collective exhibition at Albemarle Gallery from 5 September:
Young Korean Painters
Lee Jeong-woong | Im Chang-wook | Kim Chan-song
Albemarle Gallery | 49 Albemarle Street | London W1S 4JR | www.albemarlegallery.com
5 – 27 September 2014
Monday-Friday 10-6 | Saturday 10-4
Lee Jeong-woong was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1982. He trained at the Sungkyungkwan University in Seoul. After his graduation in 2008, he participated in several group exhibitions and had two solo shows in major art galleries in Seoul. He is an ardent student of the art of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema yet his works reflect his own aestheticism which tests the viewer’s mind with complex threads of symbolism and visual experiment.
For modern British viewers, it can be puzzling to see a Korean painter re-creating the style of the eminent Victorian painter with a high degree of technical capacity. While late Victorian art has hardly been introduced into Korea, Lee’s close study of artists in the period, such as Alma-Tadema and Waterhouse enables him to create a peculiar vision in 21st century Korea. Just as Victorian aestheticism contrives to attack the senses of the viewer directly with its elevated naturalism, Lee’s pictures speak out to the viewer by themselves through exploiting the power of mimesis. At the same time, it is easily noticeable that he does not intend to forge convincing illusions. His figures are collaged and not quite integrated within the same space, and they cannot represent any explicit narrative or theme despite his frequent playing with the titles. Rather his paintings aspire to an abstract quality as he carefully experiments on the formal qualities, such as tone, colour and space with his brush. At the same time, he uses his technique to crack his own problems and those of his society. The elegant marble set in his pictures is occupied by contemporary Koreans including himself. His attempt to recapitulate the consciousness and experience of himself and his nation through the odd mixture between the symbol of western ideals (marble) and Korean images might be seen as reversed exoticism. But that is far from the case, as he trained in Western modern art at a university which once was an ancient Confucian academy; the mentality of modern Koreans is reflected in this visual conundrum. It is impossible to decipher the complexity of the modern experience of the Koreans with one simple logical framework. For instance, the traditional Japanese costume in his pictures is an object of beauty while it can function as an object of aversion for the Korean viewers who remember the Japanese occupation (1910-1945). Concurrently, his pictures are not a mere insipid construction of a collective memory. The individual concerns of the young artist to life, such as beauty, affection and death, are always circulating on Lee’s canvas as the motivating force of his art.
1988 Born in Daejeon
2011 B.F.A. College of Fine Arts, Kookmin University, Seoul
2014 Floating Forest, Alternative Space Noon, Suwon
2012 Sticky Room, The K Gallery, Seoul
2010 Cocoon House, Kookmin Art Gallery, Seoul
2014 Scribbles 4, Unofficial Preview Gallery, Seoul
8th residency artists show, Cheongju Art Studio, Cheongju
2012 ASYAAF 2012, Culture Station Seoul 284, Seoul
2011 ASYAAF 2011, Hongik University, Seoul
Tomorrow’s Artist, Kyumjae-Jeongseon Memorial Museum, Seoul
2010 ASYAAF 2010, Sungsin Woman’s University, Seoul
2011 Tomorrow’s Artist award (Kyumjae-Jeongseon Memorial Museum, Seoul)
2014 Cheongju Art Studio residency
The advent of the era of reproduction, the plethora of images, and the appropriation of the original have long been the primary concepts of contemporary art. Diverse ways by which an artist can adopt and reconstruct an image have been already discovered. However, artists such as Im Chang-wook releases newly created images on to the canvas through a process involving his unique perception. He presents the multi-faceted works that can be interpreted in ambivalent ways. Based on news photographs, his works can be reread through their relationship with the world surrounding the artist. Although Im’s works are based on realistic issues, they do not explicitly carry any assertions or suggestions. He portrays intense and provocative images such as those of the ruined houses, group assault, and a confrontation between soldiers and the Pope. These, however, are not used as a means to project his voice but as a mere motivation to trigger the viewer’s thoughts.
Human figures, objects, and landscape in Im’s paintings are not arranged according to the conventions of paintings, but rather the order the artist recognized when he first saw the original news photographs. His work process includes contemplating on the forms of the news images he discovers on the Internet and recomposing them according to their essential meanings. He chooses the photographs with a critical character, but leaves a room for diverse interpretations of the political or cultural issues through his ambiguous gray images. Since creating his early pieces, Im has been dropping pigments directly onto the canvas. His primary media are automotive paints on aluminum panels, but he also has been using acrylic, oil, and latex. His works are blurred as if those are seen through a window on a rainy day, but we are able to identify the general background situation of the images. These scenes are more of fragmented images of life rather than narratives, and thus remind us of the memories that have been imprinted on our inner world.
His images that imply historical events and scars are similar to the selective information stored to remember. Human brains effectively combine or divide images to process the countless visual information encountered in life. If one considers that the memories stored in such way trigger further thoughts, it seems natural to say that Im’s paintings provide us with the visual and historical food for thought. A French historian Pierre Nora showed that a specific object can become a metaphor for memory, through the concept of “lieux de memoire” (sites of memory) that refers to the surplus of memories we cannot help but keep. According to Nora, the sites of memory include both the concrete and the abstract. In an attempt to rediscover the past using present memory, Im’s reconstructed photographic images may open up another perspective on the past.
Societal events that can be inferred from the titles of Im’s works are composed of the seemingly inharmonious background and subject matter. For instance, A Feast of Flowers in Full Bloom in Afghanistan presents colossal flowers in highly ornate colors in front of an achromatic architectural structure. Such dramatic juxtaposition, in terms of space and content, is often adopted in his work. In his recent Way of Maternal Love, a mother and a child walk in a forward direction, toward a pavilion in the middle of the sea. What is unique is that the path they take is not a road on land but on the sea. As if making a pathway for memories, water in this painting bridges the past and the present and tradition and modernity. The artist also addresses the themes of right and wrong and sin and innocence. In his large-scale work I Do Not Believe in Redemption painted in 2011, the scene of the two figures chasing a lamb is dynamically portrayed. However, it is difficult to judge if they are trying to capture the lamb to sacrifice it for their atonement or to deny atonement.
Without any narrative, his recent works also address the themes pertaining to the right and wrong. The two pieces titled Role Playing illustrate several policemen inflicting violence on a man. While these pictures do not explicitly indicate specific background information such as location or societal situation, the only evident fact is that the violence is taking place. Im’s paintings make us realize that our freedom of thought and conscience might be violated even in a modern society. Also, he allows us to contemplate on whether the suppression under law can ever, or in which cases, be justifiable. Im’s paintings that are based on the actual events help us to view the world through flexible and various approaches by intentionally recomposing and obscuring images. Although his works are vague scenes that allow a flexible thinking and diverse interpretations, the images themselves are highly intense. Just as more varied and unbelievable contents can be found in reality than fiction, Im’s works will continue to bring about diverse and complicated questions and ideas to their viewers.
Liz Kwon, Curator