London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Focus Art Fair at Saatchi Gallery: well worth a second look

This month the Saatchi gallery is playing host to several showcases of Korean art and technology. From 29 October, KOCCA is organising Oulim, a digital media art showcase that celebrates 140 years of UK Korea diplomatic relations; next week sees StART art fair which always has a strong Korean representation as its origins can be traced back to the organisers of the Korean Eye fairs; and just finishing this week is Focus Art fair which is coordinated by a French Korean.

At Focus, KOCCA (the Korean Creative Contents Agency) took over one room to give visitors a foretaste of what to expect from Oulim. Saatchi’s bricks and mortar cannot compete with the floor to ceiling digital displays boasted by Outernet at Tottenham Court Road tube, but in a darkened room a few powerful projectors can produce some nice effects. One little boy was captivated:

A boy squats while admiring a video projection

A bewildering range of exhibits will be there at Oulim, and even the highly cut-down sample on show at Focus would probably detain you for an hour if you had the time. It will likely be worth a look, but I’m not going to attempt to plough through the complicated Oulim website to understand what precisely will be happening. If KOCCA wants to write a press release, though, I’d happily read it. Here’s a very brief selection of the videos being projected at Focus.

Focus though is more about the art, and specifically art that is for sale, rather than about promoting future events, and there’s a wide range on show. The pieces that most caught our eyes were installations that are probably destined for art museums rather than your bedroom wall.

First was Taezoo Park’s nostalgic tribute to Nam June Paik. Rather less intimidating and less clunky that Paik’s now vintage-looking installations, but still Park uses genuine steam-driven cathode ray tubes in his work.

Next to him was Joonhong Min representing Hanmi Gallery. I think this was the first time that Min had collaborated with architect Seungbum Ma, who prepared digital drawings infused not only by Joonhong’s cityscape creations but also by the futuristic Soviet architecture of the 1930s.

Joonhong Min
Joonhong Min in front of his installation work

Finally, in the lower ground floor (I would have missed it if a gallery attendant wasn’t there at the exit pointing people to that one last gallery space before departing) was the intriguingly titled: a kinetic audio installation by Dojin Choi and Yeeun Jang in which five small chambers are constructed out of scaffolding poles, with walls provided by was looks like coarse hanji but which are in fact made out of algae and wool fibre.

How, precisely, the fabric is created is not for us to know, but it certainly had an interesting texture. Each wall had a large circular opening in its centre through which you could see what was inside: large white glass bowls which were periodically being struck by mechanical hammers, give an effect not unlike Buddhist prayer bowls.

On the top floor of the gallery there was an activity demanding a similar amount of calm and concentration: several visitors were sitting around a school table taking drawing classes from Lee.K, the artist whose portrait of a member of BTS had drawn not a few punters to Korean Art London earlier this year. The atmosphere was so intense with concentration you could almost touch it. What appeared to be a nearby hands-on calligraphy display could not compete.

Elsewhere in the many rooms of the Saatchi, galleries from Seoul, Busan, Yangsan and Guri were exhibiting their house artists, from minimalist abstraction to vibrant pop art and folk art inspired fantasies – something for everyone, at a price.

In fact, looking back on it now, it’s a fair I would revisit, wishing that my bank balance was healthier…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.