Young Artists Draw on ImaginationExhibition Emphasizes a Sense of Wonder and Sensuality
One of the great things about viewing the works of young artists is the sense of wonder which you probably won't find in many mature artists' works. Youthful productions may not provide a theoretical understanding of the subject that matches the public discourse or suggest a visual subtlety that satisfies many critics' esthetic criteria, but they embody something that all art should have which the currents of postmodernism fail to adopt - imagination and sensuality.
Producing visual metaphors that instantly provoke the viewers' senses, young artists at the Ssamzie Space really know how to play with their respective media. Titled "Emerging II － Sense and Sensibility," the show which started on Monday hosts three mixed-media artists, Ham Youn-joo, Kim Ki-chul and Sung Min-hwa, as part of the gallery's young artists' exhibition series. The first exhibition, "Emerging and Merging," held last fall, also presented three local artists, Kang Young-min, Jin Hong and Kim Yeun-sin. As the title of this second exhibition suggests, the works on display focus on the artists' poetic sense of imagery and feature works that bring the idea of artists' labor into being.
Ham Youn-joo's work is a typical example. If you find yourself standing in front of Ms. Ham's works for more than six seconds, which is considered to be the average length of time most people spend in front of an artwork, and feel still unready to move onto the next work, stop wondering if you are the only one struck by it because I was too. Depicting a larger than life spider web intricately made out of the artist's own hair strands, Ms. Ham's works present a craftsmanship that is absent in many contemporary works of art.
The transparent fiberglass-reinforced plastic in her "Spider Web" imitates morning dew, adorning the fragile strands of hair which hang in space, vulnerable. Unlike other sculptural pieces which immediately pervade the space they occupy with their presence, Ham's works are waiting to be "discovered" around the margins of the room. By deliberately choosing to situate them along the gallery's perimeter, thereby extending the spider web's original implication of "peripheral existence," the artist challenges notions about social values, such as high art and low art, art and life, mainstream and marginal. Using non-traditional materials like hair strands, mattress springs and nylon stockings that had once been disposed of, the artist reminds people of subjects that are often considered trivial in our everyday life situations. In this way, Ms. Ham provokes a sense of nostalgia among the viewers of her image, leaving them in a state of contemplation.
In the main gallery, the artist Sung Min-hwa contributes "Table Project" and "I Am Looking Into My Eyes." In the "Table Project," Ms. Sung displays pieces of A-4 sized paper that she had previously distributed to her artist friends with the request that they create a visual image with the theme of "table." Polaroids of the artists' faces are presented next to their productions, which range from drawings to simple text. Sung points out the importance of "process" in artmaking, and exhibits the different interpretations each artist had of the same subject.
In "I Am Looking Into My Eyes," the artist presents a box punctured with four holes, each about the size of a fingertip, fixed on a wall. When viewers peeks into a hole, they are greeted with a reflection of their own inquisitive eye. The box, it turns out, has a mirror attached at the back. By mimicking the form of surveillance cameras which are seen in so many situations in modern existence, the artist makes a playful reference to voyeurism and the public's desire to reflect on their lives by looking into others'.
In fact, the artist's main interest seems to be focused on creating visual puns about sexual psychology. Ms. Sung often provokes the viewer's curiosity by presenting an object or an image that demands great attention. In "Die Verfuerung," for example, the artist installs a luscious curtain of red velvet on the wall. When the viewer moves close to it and tries to look beyond the curtain by opening it, he or she finds nothing but a white wall. This suggestive build-up and deflation, in effect a visual bathos, is Sung's typical approach.
The artist Kim Ki-chul presents what he calls "sound sculpture." In his series "Looking at the Sound," Mr. Kim introduces a device he made out of a plexiglass cylinder with horns attached to it. Filling the cylinder with tiny styrofoam balls, the artist plays the recording of sounds that he had digitally created in the gallery space. Depending on the strength of the fluctuating sounds, the fine foam balls make waves with different patterns.
There have been several contemporary artists who have used sound as their central motif. What stands out about Kim's sculptures is that the artist actually produced the original sounds rather than simply manipulating them. By presenting a visual demonstration of sound waves, the artist challenges our conception of the interaction of our senses.
Filled with playful chicanery, "Emerging II － Sense and Sensibility" presents a pleasant viewing experience for people who look for a sense of wonder in art. A tip? Take children. You don't need daycare.
The exhibition runs through April 15. For more information, contact the gallery at 02-3142-1695 (English service available).
by Park Soo-mee