Opera Gallery London is delighted to present Korean Art, Cultivating the Unexpected, a group show that brings together five prominent Korean contemporary artists: Cho Sung-Hee, Chun Kwang Young, Jae Ko, Yoo Bong Sang and Seo Young-Deok. Their artistic approaches to materials and forms speak to nature, culture, traditions and society in unusual ways. Dwelling on these multiple themes and encouraging their different interpretation, the exhibition builds unpredictable dialogues between sculptures, paintings, collages and mixed media works. These artists create multiple narratives which derive from different perspectives on their common cultural background.
In constructing the surface of her works, Cho Sung-Hee uses a collage method in which many circles are hand-cut or gently torn from traditional 'hanji' paper, then layered with oil pigments and placed one atop another. Cho successfully combines a traditional Korean sensibility with her unique vision and personal narrative. Her works explore the complex relationship between colour and texture through a labour intensive, time-consuming process.
Chun Kwang Young wraps tiny geometric packages in paper and combines them into massive wall-mounted and freestanding assemblages. Each composition comprises thousands of individual mulberry paper parcels, carefully toned with tea and pigment and including the abstracted characters that allude to the paper’s origins as old documents. The works, which Chun refers to as ‘aggregations’, feature gradations in colour and smooth craters within their highly textured surfaces.
Jae Ko creates a new visual language with elegant spirals and ribbon installations that can take on monumental proportions. She finds inspiration in nature, and her forms readily evoke organic matter-tree rings, tornadoes, roots, branches or seeds. The intuitive design of each of Jae’s sculptures are made from miles of everyday office, recycled paper or adding-machine tapes, which she unwinds and reshapes, bathes in vats of ink and then lets dry out over months. Her seductive work occupies a space between writing and sculpting; a biomorphic form that often looks like a swollen calligraphic mark.
Yoo Bong-Sang’s works can be best described as sculptural-paintings. Both meditative and meticulous, they combine photography, drawing, painting and the use of steel nails, which the artist inserts one by one to create figurative compositions with striking realism. Each painting requires nearly 300,000 nails and this time consuming and delicate art gives life to perplexing images that blend shadow and light, revealing views of forest scenery, architectural landscapes or figures.
Exploring the relationship between humans and their environment, Seo Young-Deok is best known for his hyper-realistic, life-size sculptures of human figures fashioned exclusively from welded chains taken from industrial machinery and bicycles. The shapes the artist creates with this cold and dark material, whether it be a human’s face with closed eyes, or a body surfacing from the background, is imbued with an emotion which is both strong and peaceful. The final uneven aspect of the outside shell of the sculptures recalls the emergence of cells being duplicated, a DNA chain intentionally left unfinished or even the complexity of modern societies.