Myopia – An Exhibit Review

Down the alleys of the quickly gentrifying neighborhood west of Gueongbokgung Palace are art museums and art spaces. One such is Sarubiadabang (사루비아다방), located in a cool subterranean location.

The steps going down are steep. Halfway down we are greeted by a single wooden creature, gazing at us with a large solitary lense atop a long spindly neck. It invites us to descend further into the encroaching darkness into Myopia, Jürgen Dünhofen’s latest project.

 

The darkness covers everything. Your eyes need to adjust a bit, but lights are used for ambiance and highlighting. The space is not a void, but a kind of womb for an experience. Overhead you notice a light source is also backlighting for a pen drawing. They call you to come play. 

  
But just before we can see the art space, a wall of words greet us. Not the words of the artist (though those are present as well), but of others who have visit before you. Questions and comments on a chalk board. 

  
Walls properly placed help create anticipation. I was not disappointed. 

   
  
The basement gave way to a dreamscape of grass populated by wooden creatures akin to the one that greeted us on the descent. My initial impression was that of a playground filled with children playing gather wing and seeing. While there are common themes with the creatures, each one has its own unique take. Most have a single round lense like an eye, but a few have multiple lenses or different shaped lenses. This is fun for the observer as it invites us to try to look through their eyes.

 Again, most are three legged, save for the ‘overseer’, the tallest piece with a large lense and a good view of the whole premises. 

  
But for me the focus was the center where the only direct light was pointing. Three friends (because how can I resist using human relationship terms when they feel so human) are surrounding this central location. 

 
But then a realization came to me. Which way are these friends looking? Which way are any of these pieces looking? Initially I assumed they looked inward. It seemed natural for us to look in and down as if investigating and sharing our gazes. 

But just as plausible, these creatures could be looking away or up. Seeing beyond the walls of the basement or into the inky blackness of their skies, wondering when this perpetual eclipse will end. 

  
The lenses present another idea to me in relation to the title of the exhibit. Each creature has its own focus, its own thing it cares about. These become their lives and loves. They exist in frozen myopi, incapable of seeing the broader picture. 

The overseer, focused on the little creatures in the spot light, will not notice what is around the corner. 

 Peeking around the corner in an abandoned stairwell are two more creatures. They are hidden from view, content to observe with craned neck. Observe or keep lookout? Maybe both. 

After sitting and contemplating I returned to the board that separates the mystic workd of the three legged cyclops and wrote my own thoughts.   

The resulting dialogue can been seen here:

https://m.facebook.com/sarubiadabang/posts/371099106411384

If you wish to see this space for yourself, you’d better run. The experience ends April 30th. 

Project Space Sarubiadabang 

서울 종로구 자하문로 16길 4 지하 (창성동)

The basement of 4 Jahamun-ro 16 gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul

02.733.0440

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After Death A Tiger’s Skin Remains; A Man Leaves Only His Skin – Exhibit Review

AfterDeathTitle

 
 

Gallery i 

2015.4.8 ~ 4.21

On April 16, 2014, the MV Sewol capsized and sank, trapping and drowning 304 victims, most of which were high school students of Danwon High who were on a school trip. While much discussion has occurred about the political ramifications, many forget the people involved. Both those culpable due to neglect, but also those heroes and victims who leave behind only their name.

To remind us of the actual people involved and to show solidarity to the surviving parents, Martyn Thompson has dedicated his 5th solo show to re-present the heroes and villains of that incident.

the ribbon

The Ribbon – One stamp for each of the victims

 

 

The Concept

After death, a tiger’s skin remains; a man leaves only his name is a collection of work created with custom made stamps (dojang), printing ink (inju) and paper. This method was chosen, in part, because official dojangs are often presented as a present to a child as he comes of age. Each painting uses a stamp either with a Korean word spelled in hangeul or hanja, or with some other symbol. None of the pieces, save the artist’s self portrait, use the name of the hero or victim. They are all remembered by the public impressions of their actions even as the public at large forgets their names and faces.

While the core process is consistent, the execution varies considerably. Here I will take a quick look at two pieces.

The Captain

the captain

The Captain – 蟲 (bug)

 

Captain Lee Joon-Seok was the first off the floundering ship, leaving an unexperienced crew to deal with the disaster. The Hanja used for the captain’s stamp is 蟲 (벌레 충) or ‘bug’. The face is red, from running for his life in the cold or out of embarrassment? The black hood is reminiscent of the ‘bringer of death’, yet this death is not the kind that seeks you out. It is a flat, shallow death that kills not out of duty, but out of indifference to others. The yellow in the background is a reminder both of his cowardice, but in this case it can also be a reminder of the victims who press upon and surround the man. The cloak then becomes shelter from their judgement. Needless to say Captain Lee quickly became the go-to scape goat for the country.

However, it might be worth noting that the captain’s face is also one of the more nuanced of the show. I see this in one of two ways. One the one hand the scandal revolving around his shocking flight and criminal neglect means he received much more media attention, thus we have a more detailed picture of the man. On the other hand it might be more detailed because the viewer might see themselves in that picture. The cowardice of Captain Lee becomes our own.

The Student

the student

The Student – 용기 (courage)

But while the country had many fingers to point, there were also people who sacrificed to help others. One of these heroes was Jung Cha-Woong. In contrast to the captain, Cha-Woong’s portrait is pixilated with intense colors. The green is the dark green of pines, potentially reflecting the spirit of undying courage. The memories of the boy are now vague as the stories of his bravery represent him to all but close friends and family.

I like that the word bravery was written in the vernacular script (hangeul) rather than in the borrowed Chinese characters (Hanja). This suggests that perhaps the deepest courage, the courage born not of duty but of caring for others, is honest and and never pretentiousness. 

The Others

There are plenty of other pieces to observe and reflect on, so go check out the exhibit yourself! If you don’t live nearby or the exhibit has expired, you can also find the artwork and artist statements in the brochure


After Death, a Tiger’s Skin Remains; a Man Leaves Only His Name 

The exhibit is up through April 21st, 2015 at

Gallery i 

서울시 종로구 낙원동 283-13

isadong-map-korean

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Some Thoughts on ‘Reception’ by Maiko

 

I melted into the dream as if I had always been there. I knew where I had come from; I knew where I was going.
-Chelsie Shakespeare

Reception is a small, unassuming work. I might have missed it had the gallery director not pointed it out. This was before the titles had be put up mind you, and she asked me what I saw. 

Ah, well, it appears to be a wedding procession. Or children playing at it. But each child has a different gaze. 

These gazes were what made the painting to me. 

But before going into details on the gazes, another oddity struck me. This procession wraps around – the bride holds her own dress as she marches forward. This struck me as a cyclical view of life. If not presenting a variation of reincarnation, where we forget our previous goes and must relearn our roles as children, then as us walking in the footsteps of those who came before us, doomed to reliving their mistakes. 

  

And this is where the gazes might become a narrative of sorts. The girl at the head of the procession looks forward, meloncholy writ large on her face. She is at the edge. Is she sad because the end is near, tired because of the long journey, or is she weary of the impending restart she knows is coming. Perhaps she is a mix of Cassandra and Sysiphus, doomed to see the repetition of life yet never be believed. While she appears to be leading the party, she knows that she is actually following them. 

  

Just behind her is a boy with purpose and goal in his eyes. He is looking forward to the reception and he intends to get everyone there. The white carnation is a sign of this passion. While he might be the bride-groom, I feel he is with Cassaandra. They both look forward, but also there is something special about the bride. I’ll get to that last. 

  

Taking up the rear of the procession is another couple. The girl looks down, perhaps burdened with the worries of the here and now. Each step occupies the entirety of the world to her. She is the polar opposite of Cassandra in the lead. Likewise, the boy taking the rear is the opposite of the boy in the lead. This boy is both a day-dreaming laggard and the visionary ahead of his time. His sites are not on the tedious road ahead but in the realm of fantasy and hopeful beginnings. The lilies he peers behind are a symbol of beginnings and rebirth. Are they a sign of hope, or a sign of forgetfulness?

  

The bride is dressed in blue. This has strong allusions to the Virgin Mary. She holds her own dress train and seems to be the the most understanding of the group. But most importantly, she is gazing at the viewer directly. It’s as if she is telling us that we too are marching in circles toward goals we will never achieve, but this is just the nature of things. 

The painting as a whole is both fanciful and world weary. Which of the wedding party are you?

  

Reception (34.5cm x 34.7cm)

Tempera

Maiko, 2008

Cha, Eun-Young collection

2,000,000 won

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The Crazy Factory

February 11 – 24, 2015
Gallery i – Insadong, Seoul

Be ready for the twisted, meandering imaginings that are the brainchildren of The Crazy Factory – a group of eleven Korean artists. With no unifying theme, each artist puts on display what they do best. The collective result is a vivacious delight for the eyes. Or is it a serious critique on society? Well, let’s look at 5 of the artists and a few of their pieces from the show.

 

When the Sun comes to us
홍 광성 Kelsey Hong

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Kelsey Hong continues her impressionistic foray into couple portraiture. In her last solo show she worked with large paintings of the erotic nature, pure passion glowing from each figure. This time around, the paintings are smaller, the subjects calmer, yet each figure is still alive with her brush’s energy. Everyday life, the stuff ‘in-between’ the bouts of passion, are still filled with the energy of living.

 

I will go my way!
홍사웅 Jean Paul, Hong

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Jean Paul plays with markers and crayons, much like a young child. Each line screams unsophistication and naiveté, yet his oeuvre as a whole doesn’t care about such judgments. Rather, it basks in playfulness and creation. “I will go my way!”

 

The Mercy
오 화진 Oh, Hwa-Jin

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Peeking around the corner, a face is looking at me. Is it looking at me? It’s hard to tell, but it’s both disembodied and it’s licking the wall. And I love it. Hwa-Jin has a wonderful touch with fabrics and a quirky execution.

 

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김영진 Kim, Young-Jin

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F..faaaxC2e Kim, Young-Jin M.maaaaasE3 54 t…ob8GM. Tr.Ee34…Tgre3t. BO3..tweeY2. hIkaI…5rIiiiiiiiizU5. P-H.12RRRRR..y67.

 

Cokeeeeeeeeee!!
김 윤정 Kim, Yun-Jung

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Kim, Yun-Jung’s Cokeeeeeeeeee!! was a surprise for me technique-wise. At first I thought it was acrylic or oils. But then I found out it was hanji with traditional pigments. Look very closely and you can see the minor imperfections of the paper – but only if you’re looking for them! If you’re into comical critiques of American capitalism as cheapening the concepts of freedom the country is founded on, this work will also do in a pinch.

 


 

There’s more there, more artists and more work. Go check it out at Gallery i in Insadong.

isadong-map-korean

Or throw this address into a map app:

서울시 종로구 낙원동 283-13

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Shin Seonghwan – Ever-Changing

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Ever-Changing – Winter Becoming Spring

 

 

After descending Discovery, you come across a study. A desk with a computer, a bookshelf, a chair, a potted tree and other various objects. It starts off uncomfortable though. The whole scene is painted white – no variation. This tabula rasa is the setting for Ever-Changing.

Wait a little and soon the study changes. You hear an amplified water drop and color is projected.

IMG_4721

Ever-Changing – The Rainstorm

 

 

Soon the antiseptic room becomes a cozy setting for watching the rain. As the rain intensifies, it starts filling the whole scene and the seasons change. Greens of summer change to oranges and reds – and soon the whole study becomes white again with falling snow.

This has an odd effect. The scene itself stays exactly the same, yet the changing conditions change the perspective of what is happening. Perhaps the ‘core’ of our being remains the same while the outward appearance is mere projection and influence from the outside.

IMG_4722

Ever-Changing – Autumn and Death

Ever-Changing is simple, yet fun. Since it follows the seasons, the metaphors for life, death and renewal are easy to grasp, and the sound adds some welcoming atmosphere.


 

Title: Ever-Changing
Artist: Shin Seonghwan
Medium: Object, Projection
Exhibit: Low Technology: Back to the Future
Where: SeMA (Seoul Museum of Art)
When: December 9th – February 1st

Bak Gijin – Discovery <– Previous

Next –> Lee Yeseung – CAVE into the Cave: A Wild Rumor

 

 

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Bak Gijin – Discovery

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Entering the Low Technology exhibit at the Seoul Museum of Art brings you straight to a discovery. Or rather, it leads you to Discovery, an installation by Bak Gijin. (or Park Ki Jin – 박기진)

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Discovery is a metal drum, around which is a make-shift platform one can walk up to. It’s reminiscent of something out of Myst. It beacons the viewer to climb the rickety stairs and approach this metal thing. The approach becomes almost ceremonious, like one is approaching a mystery meant only for the initiated. The drum takes on the feeling of a well, and I walk around it’s periphery out of reverence. It’s what’s in the well which is the discovery.

discovery-inside

(This picture taken from a different iteration of the same piece)

This narrow shaft holds the ocean inside. Looking closely, you can see a machined metal surface, but what is eerie is the East to West rippling effect seems to be from just under the metal plane. Stare at it long enough and you might expect an epiphany – or the gaze of Sauron staring back at you.

The walk back is just as ceremonious. You have peered into another world, and you descend the stairs of the gods. They’ve blessed you with a vision, but now you’re back in your own little ever-changing world.


 

Title: Discovery
Artist: Bak Gijin
Medium: Mixed Media
Exhibit: Low Technology: Back to the Future
Where: SeMA (Seoul Museum of Art)
When: December 9th – February 1st

Low Technology: Back to the Future <– Previous

Next –> Shin Seonghwan – Ever-Changing

 

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Africa Now: Political Patterns

africa-now

What: Africa Now – Political Patterns

Where: SeMA  (Seoul Museum of Art)
서울특별시 중구 덕수궁길 61

When: December 16th 2014 – February 15th 2015

Who: 20 African artists

Cost: Free

Why: Modern African artists exploring the diversity, politics, and cultural struggles of Africa and it’s diaspora. Also, first major exhibit in Korea featuring African artists.


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