Full spectrum of expression at HoamThe works of young Korean artists at the Art Spectrum 2003 at Hoam Museum suggest that subtlety in art has almost reached a spiritual level. The artists transcend realism though dealing with experiences of our reality, ranging from personal politics to social subjects. Young artists seem to have finally ended their “in-your-face” period and began taking positions, embracing traditions and the world.
Considering how critical contemporary art has been to the depiction of reality, the attitude of tolerance in art seems almost like a grace. Could this mean that we are finally going back to religious sensibility in art; the the same place we were at 500 years ago? Or is this just part of the institutional politics of a corporate museum, warning artists to tone down their work?
Hoam’s “Art Spectrum 2003” is a biannual exhibition of eight young, contemporary Korean artists whose works explore issues that reflect our time. Artists should deal with themes that attract global interests and offer the potential for international exhibits.
There is no unified subject or curatorial guidelines that tie the show together, which broadens the range of selected artworks, making the show more interesting. The Hoam show is rare in that it represents the works of young alternative artists -- areas of art that are still viewed with much suspicion -- but carries the same importance as the museum’s other shows, allowing enough space for each artist to show a thorough range of works. The exhibit includes paintings, installation, drawings and photography, arranged like a large group exhibit within several solo shows.
Some of the first things you notice, however, is the absence of video works, which is quite unusual in a contemporary art exhibit, especially in a country that hosts Media City, a huge biennial show devoted entirely to media art. The resurrection of paintings seems to be another key feature of the exhibit.
One of the notable works in the exhibit are paintings by Park Se-jin, 26, the youngest artist in the show. She approaches the tradition of landscape paintings with the question “what is beyond the picture frame.” In her “The Rose Landscape” she develops a kind of a fictional narrative by painting from the back an artist at the “Bridge of No Return,” looking north across the DMZ with a soldier from the north and one from the south. Park’s painting installation begins with this set-up, and the artist draws playful speculations about a country she has always wanted to visit but never has been allowed to.
Chung Sue-jin’s “Painkiller” produces cartoon-like imagery, using aspects of the artist’s everyday life. Lee Yoon-jean’s photography compels viewers to rediscover our surrounding by zooming in on objects, or the moments that are around us. Lee Han-su’s installation of plastic Buddha embraces the gap between tradition and modernity, east and west and the religious and the secular. Moon Kyung-won reexamines the value of labor in art by projecting images she cut out of newspapers onto a screen. Park Mee-na and Sasa define art by posting statements from artists on their view of art. Han Ki-chang uses discarded sheets of x-ray film to create beautiful images, transforming pain and injury into hope for recovery.
The contemporary art scene in Korea might boil down to something much simpler than our assessment. A quote used by Mina and Sasa in their installation comes from the main character in Woody Allen’s film “Sleeper.” “I am always joking. It’s a defense mechanism.”
This sums up the direction more and more young artists are taking. That is, what artists have said so far about art cannot be described in fixed notion. After all, as Tobias Rehberger notes in the show: “Everyone sees art differently. I only make suggestions.”
by Park Soo-mee
English-speaking docents give museum tours every Saturday at 3 p.m. “Art Spectrum 2003” will be on display at Hoam through Feb. 29. For more information call 02-771-2381.