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Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Exhibition visit: a brief walk round London Art Fair 2016


No matter how well you prepare yourself for an art fair, you are bound to be caught unawares as you follow your planned route from stall to stall. In our visit of course we focused on Skipwiths, Shine and Hanmi, but elsewhere we came across the established photographer Boomoon showing at Flowers Gallery, and emerging ceramic artist Lee Yun-hee at Decorazon Gallery

Yun Hee Lee: Sonye (2015) and (right) Golden Rainbows (2015)
Yun Hee Lee: Sonye (2015) and (right) Golden Rainbows (2015). Hand painted porcelain, both 21 x 19 x 26 cm

Skipwiths had an unexpected artist, Kim Jae-il, who spent some of the early years of his career working in the studio of Chun Kwang-young. Kim’s mandala-like works created from wood and synthetic material were catching the eyes of a lot of people.

The Skipwiths stall, with works by Chun Kwang-young, Toh Yun-hee, Lee Kang-so and Park Hyo-jin
The Skipwiths stall, with works by Chun Kwang-young, Toh Yun-hee, Lee Kang-so and Park Hyo-jin

Park Hyo-jin always seems to generate a lot of interest at the Skipwiths stall, and it was nice to see a couple of the original sculptures which are the subject of her striking photographs.

Park Hyojin: Hope (2015).
Park Hyojin: Hope (2015). Pigment print, 110 x 110 cm. At Skipwiths.

No matter whether you’ve seen the works of the artists at the Skipwiths stall before: it’s always worth your while loitering in the hope that Grey will give you an impromptu art history lesson on his more established artists. This time we chatted about Lee Kang-so, whose monochrome From an Island (2008) was hung next to a new Chun Kwang-young paper work.

Lee Kang-so: From an Island (2008)
Lee Kang-so: From an Island (2008). Acrylic on Canvas, 72.9 x 91 cm. Courtesy of Skipwiths

Lee Kang-so was born in 1943 and although he is now known for his painting he has a very varied history. He was one of the early experimental artists to emerge from Korea in the early 1970s – and in 1975 made the headlines at the 9th Paris Biennale with a work involving a live chicken tethered to a post in the centre of the gallery space. Another of Lee’s claims to fame is that it was he who influenced Park Seo-bo into adopting the Dansaekhwa style. With the growing interest in the practice of modern artists from the 1960s and 70s (eg as evidenced at the Tate Modern screenings last year, or Joan Kee’s essay on Korean performance art in the 1970s) the time has hopefully come for those who are still with us to make a come-back.

Works by Guem MinJeong at Hanmi Gallery
Works by Guem MinJeong at Hanmi Gallery. On the left, two works from her historical project on Seodaemun Prison, and, right, Love, (2010). Synthetic Resin, LED, monitor, Mixed Media, 100 x 130 x 40 cm

We also spent some time at Hanmi Gallery, where Guem MinJeong had her first solo exhibition in the UK. Hanmi’s space was made to feel like a living room – small side tables with lamps gave the stall a domestic feel appropriate to displaying some of Guem’s works. On one side table there was an iPad-sized screen with a video of two fan-shaped objects rotating against each other like cogs. These were in fact videos of the exercise yard of Seodaemun Prison, shot from above, part of a work in which Guem collaborated with a dancer who performed within the confines of those walls.

My own favourite of the pieces in Hanmi Gallery’s exhibition was a hypnotising work which combined a time-lapse video of the interior of the old Seoul railway station set in a wooden sculptural frame, the experience enhanced by the fact that the work was installed next to a video of a breathing door: the restful sound of the regular breathing calmed the mind as you looked at the changing scene in front of you.

Guem MinJeong: A restoration of the time-Old Seoul station, 2014
Guem MinJeong: A restoration of the time-Old Seoul station, 2014. Video Monitor, Photo, LED Light Box, 35 x 32 x 7 cm.

Other visitors – at least, those who spoke Korean – found another work appealing: a rather beautiful animation of Kim Sowol’s famous poem Azaleas (김소월: 진달래꽃) in which the lines of the poem flutter gently to the ground like the jindalle petals the poet imagines himself scattering at the feet of his departing lover.

Kyung Hwa Shon: The City of Fragments, 2015
Kyung Hwa Shon: The City of Fragments, 2015. Sculpture. Text on copper sheets, 300 x 252 cm

Close by Hanmi’s stall in the project space was WW Contemporary Art, who were presenting a solo show by young Korean artist Shon Kyung Hwa. She too had found inspiration in literature: Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, and in particular an elusive character called Stillman… “a speck, a punctuation mark, a brick in an endless wall of bricks”. Congratulations to Shon on winning WW Contemporary Art’s 2015 SOLO Award – we hope to see more from her in the future.

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