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Posts Tagged ‘Lee Ufan’

Curator Tobias Berger talks about Korean contemporary art scene in 4 questions

Posted by artradar on September 20, 2010


SOUTH KOREA CONTEMPORARY ART INTERVIEW CURATOR

Art Radar Asia recently spoke with German-born curator Tobias Berger, who currently holds the position of Chief Curator at the Nam June Paik Art Center, about the Center’s exhibition “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain“. During this interview, Berger also revealed a few of his observations on living and working in the Korean art environment.

Korean art has always been in the shadow of Japanese and Chinese artistic success, often “dismissed as a mere conduit between the two mega cultures.” This may be because few of the local magazines, exhibition catalogues and other art texts produced on Korean contemporary art are available in English. As Berger states, “There are none. They’re all in Korean. There’s nothing really good in English.” And while the local art scene is perhaps not on par with what can be experienced in these neighbouring countries, Berger notes that the art that is being produced in Korea is of a very high quality, due to good art schools, a diversity of art spaces, talented pioneers and governmental support.

This Korean contemporary art sculpture was shown at "Korean Eye: Moon Generation".

'Shamoralta Shamoratha' (2007) by Inbai Kim was shown at "Korean Eye: Moon Generation" in 2009. Korean Eye was founded in 2009 as a way to support emerging Korean artists by providing international exhibition opportunities.

As a European who formerly lived and worked in the Hong Kong art scene, how do you find the South Korean art scene compares?

“The Seoul art scene is probably the most sophisticated art scene in Asia. It has really good independent spaces, good commercial galleries, interesting art schools and good museums. It has this whole pyramid of different art spaces, exhibition possibilities, and it has a lot of really good and wonderful artists. That level of depth and the level of different kinds of art spaces is incomparable. Certainly in Beijing [you] have galleries, but you don’t have any independent spaces, and in Tokyo it’s also very different.”

How do you keep up to date with the Korean art scene?

That is a problem because it’s all in Korean and it’s very difficult to keep up [with]. I mean, you just go to the 10-15 [art] spaces once a month … and you talk to your friends and your colleagues that go to the big exhibitions…. You just have to look at how it is. There was a [recent] survey show called “Bright Future” but it only had twelve artists.

Tell us about the art school system in Korea? How does it differ from other places?

It’s the most sophisticated [system] because it had some good pioneers [and] a lot of governmental help. [South Korea] has some good art schools and it has a lot of good artists that have studied overseas and come back. This allowed a lot of critical discourse and [there were] a lot of magazines. That allowed the art scene to grow well and in the right way.

Korean art is becoming popular with international collectors. “Korean Eye, for example, was shown at The Saatchi Gallery in London earlier this year. Can you tell us why you think this is happening now?

“Here in South Korea you don’t feel that there’s much happening. The Korean scene is nothing compared to what’s happening in China…. On the one side, these shows, where this is popular or that is popular, don’t really mean a thing. There is a lot of good art in South Korea and the quality of the art is really on a high level, because art education has been good for 15-20 years. A lot of people are educated in Europe and America and have very good support and certainly output good quality art…. I mean, you don’t want to buy or you don’t want to show an artist because he’s Korean, you want to show an artist because he’s a good artist.”

JAS/KN/HH

Related topics: Korean artists, interviews, Tobias Berger, curators

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Lee Ufan-dedicated museum opens on Japanese island – The Japan Times

Posted by artradar on August 25, 2010


JAPANESE KOREAN ARTIST MUSEUM OPENINGS MODERNISM

An article by The Japan Times covers the opening of a brand new art museum in Japan dedicated to the Korean-born artist Lee Ufan. The article features an extensive interview in which the artist reminisces on his youth in a Japanese-occupied Korea and his early years as an artist in Japan.

Located on the island of Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, the Lee Ufan Museum is part of the Benesse Art Site, which has been listed as one of Japan’s must-see tourist destinations. In the article, Lee explains why the museum is unconventionally half underground:

Lee Ufan's painting 'From Line (1974) is on display at the newly-created Lee Ufan Museum in Japan.

Lee Ufan's painting 'From Line (1974) is on display at the newly-created Lee Ufan Museum in Japan.

For some people, it won’t look like a museum. Some people might think it’s a mosque, or a grave. That’s fine. I wanted it to feel far removed from everyday life.

The article also discusses Lee’s unique role in the Japanese art scene. Being both a resident of Japan and an outsider, due to his status as a Korean-born Japanese artist, he has interesting insights into the history of Japan and Korea and the art scene in Japan.

His aesthetic style consists mostly of simple constructions and has often been compared to Asian philosophy by Western critics. He says that he is indebted to the Western Modernist tradition for his simple style more than the traditional Asian aesthetic. Despite being influenced by Modernist art, he asks viewers to find a deeper meaning in the process of looking at art:

These days, when we think of art, we immediately think of it being something that you look at. But it is actually only in the Modern period that this act of looking has been given such emphasis. Before then, there was more to it: myths, religion, social issues. People would know these stories and they would read them into the art. In other words, the act of appreciating art was completed in the mind.

One way in which he is thoroughly Asian, he says, is his belief in the strong connection between individuals and the universe, a concept which he explores in his paintings:

After all, Asia has a monsoon climate, so there is a lot of rain. There’s always things rotting and new life sprouting and, in the past, this gave rise to strong tendencies toward animistic beliefs. Asians are more likely to see themselves as living with nature, with the rest of the universe.

The museum will hold many of Lee Ufan’s canvases and sculptures, created since he began his artistic career in the 1970s.

Read the full article here.

MM/KN

Related Topics: museums, Korean artists, Japanese artists, Japanese venues

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13 Korean artists in survey at Singapore Museum to March 2009 – IHT

Posted by artradar on December 5, 2008


Yim Tae-kyu 'Fly Away Home'
Yim Tae-kyu ‘Fly Away Home’

KOREAN ART SINGAPORE

Singapore Art Museum 8 November 2008 – 15 March 2009

Over the past six decades, Korea has witnessed enormous economic and social changes that artists have responded to with a diverse range of approaches, as they grappled with tensions between tradition and modernism, and issues of industrialization and urbanization. Two main ideological movements have emerged, one trying to transcend tradition, and the other trying to rediscover it, yet both have one common quest: finding a strong cultural identity.The exhibition, “Transcendence: Modernity and Beyond in Korean Art,” at the Singapore Art Museum, examines the development of Korean art from the 1950s to the present as seen through the works of 13 artists.

“From a broad perspective, modern Korean art may be seen to be oscillating between two seemingly divergent approaches. On one hand, there seems to be an effort to transcend traditional forms; yet, on the other, many artists have been attempting to rediscover the spirit of traditional art,” said Suenne Megan Tan, one of the two curators of the exhibition, “The idea is really to give visitors a good taste of Korean art over the last 50 years.”

Section 1: 1950s Korean Modernism

The show, which runs until March 15, has three broadly themed sections. The first part looks at the origins of Korean Modernism in the 1950s and focuses on three major artists: Park Seo Bo, Lee Ufan and Kim Tschang Yeul. “They’re generally regarded as key artists that have helped move Korean art into modernity,” Tan said.

Informel period

After the Korean War (1950-1953), artists started to seek new ways of expression, while reflecting on the scars of the war. “I think poverty was really the origin of creation for many artists right after the civil war,” Park said recently through an interpreter while in town for the opening of the show. “There was no food, no job opportunity, everything had gone back to ashes; all conventional values and ideas were laid naked and bare. I had to raise questions.”

Between 1957 and 1965, Park was one of the leading forces behind the Korean Informel movement, the first major abstract movement in Korea to challenge the established Japanese-mediated, French Impressionism style (Korea was under Japanese rule between 1910-1940). Informel works often used rough brushwork and mixed media on a large-scale canvas with strong color in an abstract style. Yet, although artists were looking at ways to experiment, they also sought to adapt abstract principles and include some Korean iconography in their works, noted Choi Eun Ju, guest curator for the show and branch director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Deoksugung in Seoul.

 Monochronism

Park was also a key player in another important Korean art movement, Monochromism, which he defined as the synthesis between the traditional Korean spirit and contemporary art. Proponents of this 1970s movement, which included Lee Ufan, emphasized the color white, a color often associated with the “spirit” of the Korean people.

Today, Park’s works are characterized by the use of soaked Korean mulberry paper mixed with glue, which he then manipulates on the canvas with constant strokes using a small wooden tool to create small, equidistantly spaced paper ridges. Through the repetitive, rhythmic force on the canvas, the artist says he is striving to reach “something absolute.”

“For me, painting has become a mere tool and method to cleanse and purify myself,” the 77-year-old artist said, likening his work to chanting in a temple.

Although they have different backgrounds – Park was trained in Korea, Lee in Japan and Kim in Europe and the United States – all three have imbued their works with Korean sensibilities, aesthetics and philosophy, Tan pointed out. Kim, who is best known for the translucent water drops on his paintings, has introduced Chinese characters in his work, an intrinsic part of Korean culture because of the neighboring country’s influence on Korea over the centuries.

Section 2: 1970s- 1980s

The second part of the exhibition looks at the generation of artists who emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and who started to incorporate everyday objects into their canvas and to work in a more figurative style.

One of them, Kim Kang Yong, has become known as “the brick artist” because of his use of sand on canvases to depict bricks in various permutations.

“My work is very much about the industrialization of our society,” Kim said. “I first started using grains of sand and bricks as a reflection on individuality and the role of individuals in nation-building. But today, I’m using the motif more as an aesthetic tool.” Sometimes the bricks are arranged in a grid-like format, conveying the beauty of order; in others, they tumble toward the viewers, conveying turbulence.

Several of the other artists shown in this section, such as Lee Yong Deok, Cheong Kwang Ho and Lee Lee Nam, have been stretching the notion of the painting medium. Lee Young Deok, for example, first sculpts a figure then creates a cast of it and uses that mold as his final art work, thus offering the viewer a “negative” of his sculpture. Cheong Kwang Ho uses thin copper wire to create three-dimensional, see-through sculptures that have a certain weightlessness to them as though drawn in the air. Using video, Lee Lee Nam gives viewers of his “moving paintings” an opportunity to reflect on the passing of time and to question what is real. Using traditional Chinese landscapes in digital format, he “transforms” them, slowly changing the landscape – modern skyscrapers appear and disappear amid a traditional mountain landscape, or snow starts to fall.

Section 3: 1990s

The remainder of the show focuses on Korean art of the 1990s, which has largely been a reaction to the modernism of the ’70s and ’80s, showing a greater concern with the social function of art. “The contemporary generation goes beyond visual aesthetics and pushing the boundaries of the medium; rather, their art reflects their social concerns for the individual, the marginalized, as well as the tensions that exist within society,” Tan said.

Yim Tae Kyu, for example, started his “marginal man” series in 2002 as solitary melancholic figures that have evolved into a more optimistic and colorful series based on childhood imagery. “I first started with black and white works, looking at people alienated from society. But I then began to see that these people have dreams, hopes, aspirations. I felt marginalized because I was an artist, but I also started to have my own dreams; that’s when I started using color,” said Yim, who recently moved to Beijing: “I think the Beijing art scene is very experimental right now; I want to feel the vibes.”

Tan said that in the 1990s art took on a public function. “In the case of an artist like Kang Ik Joong,” she said, “art is used as an important tool in fostering connectivity across geographical boundaries and cultures.”

Kang has described himself as a collector of people’s dreams, translating those onto miniature canvases, providing “windows” into the hopes and dreams of the people he meets.

International Herald Tribune

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