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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.