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Chun Kyungwoo: Portraits, at HADA Contemporary

News of HADA Contemporary’s first show of the Autumn:

Chun Kyungwoo: Portraits

2 October – 30 November 2014
HADA Contemporary | 21 Vyner Street | London | E2 9DG |
Wednesday – Friday: 11am – 6pm | Saturday – Sunday: 11am – 4pm

Chun Kyung-woo: Versus #1 (2007)
Chun Kyung-woo: Versus #1 (2007). C-Print, 66 x 90 cm. Courtesy of the artist and HADA Contemporary

Embracing the contemporary resistance against the traditional notion of photography – that it captures the moment of reality – Chun Kyungwoo (b. 1969) studies on the vast possibilities of the medium focusing on the subjectivity and relativity that explore the fundaments of relationships. Often characterised by the blurred contour and obscurity from the long exposure and performance-driven photographic process, he records the duration and collects moments whilst building a relationship that helps unveil oneself. Chun incorporates photography, performance, video and installation in a close relationship to question what we believe as rational, logical and finite such as the concept of time through visual eloquence and clarity.

In One Hour Portrait (2002), he explores the boundary of the photographic medium and the genre of portraiture by reassessing their common principles. As the artist photographs the subject through an hour-long exposure while sharing candid conversations, he releases the heavy burden of instantaneity bound to the photographic medium. Stirring away from the momentary snapshot of the external physicality, the painterly imagery is the portrait of the intimate relationship of the sitter and photographer. Similarly, in A Day in Seoul (2003), nine businessmen were invited to the artist’s studio on their own appointed time in a day to be photographed for the minutes that represent the number of their age. Interestingly, although each image depicts three men seated closely together, they were never photographed together. As the varying translucence of figures suggests each were photographed individually through the long exposure allowing them to reside simultaneously within an image. This fundamentally demonstrates the photograph’s inadequacy as a medium to present the moment of truth or reality through the visualisation of the absence of truth by challenging the linearity of time which is further elaborated in his previous works as 18×1 Minute (2003) and 0 Minute (2005).

In Simultan (2010), he creates a diptych each captured from different angles to examine on the relative values, perspectives and relationships. The visual manifestation of varying perspectives of the subjects propels us to disregard the idea that photography displays a particular space and time seen from a single point of view as images created through a single lens differs from how our eyes and mind function. Furthermore, the recognition of these differences grants our understanding of the myriads possibility of the subjective and relational interpretation. In the similar note, Believing is Seeing (2007) is a series that confronts on our perception on seeing, knowing and believing by photographing participants with congenital or acquired visual impairments for maximum of an hour long exposure while the participants described what they would look like, how they perceived themselves and how they think others perceive them. Freed from the visual limitations imposed by what you can see from the long tradition of ocularcentrism that often equates the vision with cognition, knowledge and truth, the imaginal visualisation of participants are limitlessly richer and deeper through other senses. Thus, he initiates a dialogue that suggest the fragility, fluidity and incompleteness of the perception through vision contesting preconceived values giving ways to subjective interpretation.

Versus (2006-7) is one of Chun’s representative works that focuses on exploring on the relationship between individuals inspired by the Chinese word ‘Ren’ (人, human) – a Chinese hieroglyph originating from the image of two people leaning against each other, which exemplify the interdependency as the fundamental element of human existence. Two individuals were invited to rest their head on each other’s shoulder whilst holding one of the partner’s hands – the posture modelled after the Chinese character – for the duration of the sum of their age triggering the sensual phenomenological experiences. The invitation to violate their personal space and that of the others opens the gateway to encounter the other, at the same time, oneself through the intense bodily and emotional relationship formed by the complex sensorial exchanges. It is whether you choose to accept or reject the existence of the other, they existence will become a burden or a support. Like many of his photographic series, Versus also continued as a performance from 2007 to 2012 in Seoul, New York, Barcelona and Zurich among others inducing varying physical and emotional experiences from differing cultural backgrounds and environments. In the series BreaThing (2008), Chun explores this further in a broader context by studying how an object transforms as it meets the body by photographing participants while holding an object. The absence of visages guides us to fully engage in the dialogue between an individual and an object extrapolating their relationship. Regardless of its original functionality, the object enliven by the breath of emotions and memories merges as a part of the body and the image becoming a portrait of this transformation.

As Ingo Clauß notes, Chun’s works are deeply rooted in humanism combining diverse concepts of Western and Eastern philosophy. His oeuvre essentially navigates against the current challenging the realm of our perception suggesting the path towards realisation of our preconceptions. Often questioning the finite and limited definitions, his quiet and earnest gestures with the economy of means manifest tremendous impact on our perspective and consciousness. Thus tempting us to retrospect what it is to be and how to be a human in the world that we live in.

Chun received Diploma in Photography at University of Wuppertal, Germany and BFA in Photography at Chung-Ang University in Seoul, Korea. He exhibited internationally in respected institutions as National Museum of Contemporary Art Korea; Laznia-Center for Contemporary Art Gdanks, Poland; Centro Huarte-Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Navarra, Spain; Center for Contemporary Art, Aarhus, Denmark; Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, UK among others. His works has been collected in numerous institutions and private collections. He lives and works in Seoul, Korea and Bremen, Germany.

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